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In review: Super Round Melbourne

In review: Super Round Melbourne

All BlacksMarch 6, 2023

Three Australian teams in the top six, along with the Chiefs, Hurricanes, and the Blues from New Zealand, has DHL Super Rugby Pacific wearing a different face after two rounds.

It is still early days, and the title-defending champion Crusaders demonstrated in their 52-15 win over the Highlanders on Friday that they are back on track, but the Chiefs and the Hurricanes are setting a heady pace.

The Chiefs beat Moana Pasifika 52-29 to move to the top of the ladder, while the Hurricanes beat the Rebels 39-33.

The Blues had a setback when unable to peg back the Brumbies in a scoreless second half and going down 20-25, while the Reds completed an outstanding turnaround to beat the Force 71-20.

Crusaders 52 Highlanders 15

The Highlanders ran into the Crusaders of old. Absorbing some early but tryless pressure from their southern neighbours, they waited their chance and unleashed in their usual fashion. Wing Sevu Reece and fullback Fergus Burke set the scene when capping long-range team tries. Then the pack took over with the trademark efficiency at lineout time, providing tries for hooker Codie Taylor and prop Joe Moody. Turning the tide of the Highlanders' pressure allowed second five-eighths David Havili to demonstrate his defensive strengths while there was also nothing wrong with the line he ran to score his try. It was a line repeated later by wing Leicester Fainga'anuku.

Some scrum pressure was applied by the Highlanders early in the game, but they could not benefit. The Crusaders turned that around and took control. Adopting a kicking game through former England first five-eighths Freddie Burns, they got little return as the Crusaders mounted wave after wave of attacks. It was the first time the Crusaders had put 50 points on the Highlanders, who had some late reward when centre Josh Timu scored twice, resulting from kicks through the defensive line. While he didn't get on the scoreboard, second five-eighths Thomas Umaga-Jensen made his mark on several Crusaders defenders.

Crusaders 52 (Sevu Reece, Fergus Burke, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, David Havili, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Richie Mo'unga tries; Mo'unga 7 con, pen) Highlanders 15 (Josh Timu 2 tries; Sam Gilbert con, pen). HT: 24-3

Rebels 33 Hurricanes 39

Outstanding as the contribution of Hurricanes No8 Ardie Savea was in scoring two tries and setting up another for fullback Josh Moorby, it won't be what he is remembered for. A yellow card for his intervention in an altercation and his throat-slitting gesture afterwards resulted in the potential assessment of the incident post-game. It was compounded when replacement prop Tevita Mafileo had his yellow card upgraded to a red card for contact with an opponent's head, reducing the side to 13 men at one stage. The Rebels took advantage, having earlier scored the game's opening try to flanker Brad Wilkin, by having wing Lachie Anderson and first five-eighths Carter Gordon cross for tries.

Some class from Hurricanes wing Salesi Rayasi allowed them breathing space, although that was sucked away when Rebels No8 Richard Hardwick scored twice within six minutes to get the home team within a point. But lock Isaia Walker-Leawere upset a ruck for Braydon Iose to win a turnover. Replacement flanker Caleb Delany showed a handy knack in the backline to give second five-eighths Jordie Barrett a chance to run in the match-winning try two minutes from the end.

Rebels 33 (Brad Wilkin, Lachie Anderson, Carter Gordon, Richard Hardwick 2 tries;  Gordon con; Reece Hodge 3 con) Hurricanes 39 (Ardie Savea 2, Josh Moorby, Salesi Rayasi, Jordie Barrett tries; Barrett 4 con, 2 pen ). HT: 7-24

Moana Pasifika 29 Chiefs 52

An intercept pulled off from a clearance of the kick to start the game gave Chiefs second five-eighths Rameka Pohipi the fastest try in Super Rugby history. It made an already difficult task even more challenging for Moana Pasifika. That was compounded when a Damian McKenzie long pass saw Liam Coombes-Fabling amble across for a second. Then after a break by No8 Pita Gus Sowakula, halfback Brad Weber was on hand to take the pass, while fullback Shaun Stevenson barged across for a fourth in the first 23 minutes. Add a second to Weber and a classy solo effort to McKenzie, and the Chiefs turned with a 38-3 lead.

If there was anything positive to take from the game for Moana Pasifika, it was winning the second half 26-14, and they made their impact through wing Timoci Tavantavanawai soon after the restart. Hooker Samiuela Moli went over after a lineout drive, and while Stevenson scored his second for the Chiefs, flanker Solomone Funaki produced a third for Moana Pasifika. A penalty try lifted them to four tries, but the Chiefs finished strongest, with Stevenson completing his hat-trick.

Moana Pasifika 29 (Timoci Tavantavanawai, Samiuela Moli, Solomone Funaki tries; penalty try; Christian Leali'ifano 2 con, pen) Chiefs 52 (Rameka Pohipi, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Brad Weber 2, Shaun Stevenson 3, Damian McKenzie tries; McKenzie 5 con; Bryn Gatland con). HT: 3-38

Fijian Drua 17 Waratahs 46

Competitive throughout the first half as both sides looked to get their packs en route to dominance, this game opened up in the second half when the Waratahs unleashed some outstanding play. They constructed precise opportunities in the Drua's 22m area with efficient distribution from the forward base allowing first five-eighths Tane Edmed to relish the time his halfback Jake Gordon created for him. Edmed worked the blind for his outsides to score but also cut back on his own on one occasion to score.

Wing Mark Nawaquanitawase latched onto a cross-field kick to shake off the defence to score and round out a six tries to two win. In a game where so much of the possession was shared, the two yellow cards to the Drua's prop Jone Tiko and replacement hooker Zuriel Togiatama did not help them. Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper relished the type of game to feature in assists to several of the tries.

Fijian Drua 17 (Joseva Tamani, Tevita Ikanivere tries; Caleb Muntz 2 con, pen) Waratahs 46 (Dave Porecki, Ben Donaldson, Langi Gleeson, Tane Edmed, Max Jorgensen, Mark Nawaqanitawase tries; Edmed 5 con, pen; Donaldson pen). HT: 10-10

Blues 20 Brumbies 25

Blues 20 (Ricky Riccitelli, Tom Robinson tries; Beauden Barrett,  2 con, 2 pen)   Brumbies 25 (Penalty try; Andy Muirhead, Lachlan Lonergan tries; Ryan Lonergan con, pen). HT: 20-25

The Brumbies reversed their disappointment in last year's semifinal in Auckland when maintaining a halftime lead through a scoreless second half in Melbourne's 29 degrees heat. But the on-field temperature was high in a game in which the Brumbies made the most of infringements the Blues stacked up in the first half. The Blues suffered seven penalties and two yellow cards in the first eight minutes and were hit hard in the scrums by referee Ben O'Keefe. However, Riccitelli scored with the Blues only having 13 men, and while the Brumbies got out to a 20-7 lead, two penalties and a Tom Robinson try levelled the score at 20-20 with 10 minutes of the half remaining.

The Blues had a chance after a reverse switch move which saw fullback Stephen Perofeta use his speed to put centre Rieko Ioane into space, but he couldn't get a pass away to second five-eighths Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and the chance was lost. As the pressure went on in the second half, the Brumbies had power at the breakdown challenges where replacement props Rhys van Nek and Blake Schoupp were especially dominant. The Reds also stood Blues players up in mauls to create turnover ball. However, the heat took its toll near the end, with dropped passes occurring on both sides. The longer they were scoreless, the more desperate the Blues became, but there was no way through the Brumbies' defences.

Force 20 Reds 71

A six-tries in 22 minutes burst in mid-game powered the Reds to a complete turnaround win in their second-round game against the Force in the last match of Melbourne's Super Round. Running the ball back at the Force when they attempted to clear the kick-off, the Reds were denied a try in the first minute to centre Josh Flook. However, it was a temporary setback. Flook made play for lock Ryan Smith to open the scoring. Fullback Jordan Petaia, who made the game's initial thrust, tried it again from the try restart, toed ahead, gained the bounce and went in for the second try. Force wing Zach Kibirige got one back for the Force. No8 Harry Wilson extended the Reds' lead with a try, and while Force hooker Folau Fainga'a closed the margin, Flook scored just before halftime and set in train the game-changing burst.

By the time it was completed, hooker Matt Faessler, left-wing Filipo Daugunu, right-wing Suliasi Vunivalu, and flanker Liam Wright had all scored tries, three of them converted by first five-eighths Tom Lynagh and two by replacement James O'Connor to leave the score 57-13. Add to that two tries in the last five minutes, and the Reds had a 71-20 triumph to celebrate.

Force 20 (Zach Kibirige, Folau Fainga'a, Jackson Pugh tries; Bryce Hegarty con, pen) Reds 71 (Ryan Smith, Jordan Petaia, Harry Wilson, Josh Flook 2, Matt Faessler, Filipo Daugunu 2, Suliasi Vanivulu, Liam Wright tries; Tom Lynagh 5 con, pen; James O'Connor 4 con)

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