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DHL Super Rugby Pacific Wrap: Round 1

DHL Super Rugby Pacific Wrap: Round 1

All BlacksFebruary 26, 2024

Early season form resulted in some spectacular play in the DHL Super Rugby Pacific opening round over the weekend, with the defending champion Crusaders starting the campaign with a loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Hurricanes, Brumbies, Blues, Reds and Highlanders all secured try-scoring bonus point wins.

Injury watch:

Tamaiti Williams (Crusaders), Damian McKenzie (Chiefs), Taniela Tupou (Rebels)

Stats watch:

Most carries: Kellaway (Rebels) 19, Tupaea (Chiefs) 16, Paisami (Reds) 15

Clean breaks: Toole (Brumbies) 3, Epeli Momo (Drua) 3

Defenders beaten: Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Highlanders) 10, Naholo (Hurricanes) 8, Daugunu (Rebels) 7

Lineouts won: Frost (Brumbies) 8, Sotutu (Blues) 7, Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes(6)

Metres gained: Kellaway (Rebels) 149, Toole (Brumbies) 121, Lolesio (Brumbies) 113

Offloads: Wilson (Reds) 4, Tele'a (Blues) 3, Proctor (Hurricanes) 3

Points: Gilbert (Highlanders) 15, Cameron (Hurricanes) 14, Havili (Moana Pasifika) 11

Tackles won: Christie (Crusaders) 28, Gamble (Waratahs) 20, Bell (Crusaders) 19, Lee-Warner (Waratahs) 19

Chiefs 33 Crusaders 29

Unadulterated speed in the first half carried the Chiefs to a 27-10 lead at halftime in Hamilton after some stunning play encapsulated in half Xavier Roe's near-length-of-the-field try. But his effort was flanked by Kaylum Boshier's nous in reaching through a ruck in-goal to touch the ball down to score, and by the wing Etene Nanai-Seturo's running onto the ball at speed and having the footwork to evade the defence to score. Of course, the Crusaders did not take that lying down and showed their version of speed application by lifting the tempo of their attack at the start of the second half to score two tries to fullback Chay Fihaki and skipper and lock Scott Barrett, within three minutes to rock the Chiefs' foundations. Then scrum power played a part in the contest, with former All Black Owen Franks providing critical penalties, only for the Chiefs to respond in the last 10 minutes with what proved the vital scrum penalty that saw five-eighths replacement Josh Ioane land the second of his two penalty goals to ensure a home win.

Chiefs 33 (Kaylum Boshier, Xavier Roe, Etene Nanai-Seturo tries; Damian McKenzie 2 con, 2 pen; Shaun Stevenson con; Josh Ioane 2 pen) Crusaders 29 (Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki, Scott Barrett tries; Rivez Reihana 2 con, pen; Taha Kemara con). HT: 27-10.


Rebels 3 Brumbies 30

Three minutes in, flying wing Corey Toole capped a move that started in the Brumbies' 22 by using his speed to chip ahead and win an unchallenged race to score. Thirteen minutes later, Toole was on the end of a blindside run by first five-eighth Noah Lolesio, who made the most of poor Rebels defence for Toole to score his second.

Up 17-3 at the turn, the Brumbies benefitted from a Lolesio intercept, which provided the lead-up for a Rebels turnover just inside the Brumbies half. As the ball popped out from a ruck, No8 Charlie Cale took the ball and set sail for the line. When challenged, he kicked ahead and outsped the defence to score in the corner. The Rebels should have scored through No8 Rob Leota, but replacement loose forward Vaiolini Ekuasi's jersey-pulling of a prospective tackler, flanker Tom Hooper, saw the try ruled out by referee Angus Gardner. And the Brumbies capped their win with Cale scoring a second on the end of a line, running the ball across the face of the Rebels line.

Rebels 3 (Carter Gordon pen) Brumbies 30 (Corey Toole 2, Charlie Cale 2 tries; Noah Lolesio 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 3-17


Force 14 Hurricanes 42

A yellow card to wing Harry Potter two minutes into the game when hitting fullback Ruben Love in the air proved costly as six minutes later, second five-eighths Jordie Barrett lobbed a kick to the corner for wing Josh Moorby to open the season's scoring. Love responded at the quarter mark when breaking through and linking inside Morby with halfback Jordie Viljoen scoring on debut. Lock Caleb Delany will never score an easier try than his 36th-minute pick up and run from a goalmouth ruck. For the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Hurricanes were without centre Billy Proctor in the sin-bin and halfback Nic White crossed after a Potter break took play to the line. With 30 minutes left, home prop Marley Pearce was sin-binned on review for a head clash with Barrett and that resulted in the Hurricanes carrying play to the goalmouth, where hooker Asafo Aumua powered across. Wing Chase Tiatia responded with two strong runs in the one movement to score for the Force. Eight minutes from the end, No8 Peter Lakai went over from a lineout drive and on fulltime a blindside move from a five-metre scrum put replacement wing Salesi Rayasi in for the final try – capped by a fine sideline conversion by first five-eighths Brett Cameron.

Force 14 (Nic White, Chase Tiatia tries; Ben Donaldson 2 con) Hurricanes 42 (Josh Moorby, Jordie Viljoen, Caleb Delany, Asafo Aumua, Peter Lakai, Salesi Rayasi tries; Brett Cameron 4 con, 2 pen). HT: 0-22


Blues 34 Fijian Drua 10

Beginning their campaign with a 23-phase blitzkrieg on the Blues line, the Fijian Drua were unable to find a way through the home defence in Whangarei, and it was the Blues who maintained coolness and gradually took control to establish a 29-3 lead by halftime. That was due to snappy backline passing, spearheaded by first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta. His subtleties of timing in his pass and his variation were highlighted by a superb pass along the goal-line for skipper and flanker Dalton Papali'i to score. By comparison, the Drua, time and again, looked to have opportunities only for poor handling to let them down. Their lack of control was emphasised when Blues prop Angus Ta'avao charged down an attempted clearing kick and chased after the ball, which two Drua players couldn't control, allowing No8 Hoskins Sotutu to touch the ball down for his second try.

Turning to play into the wind, Fiji launched a similar start to their first half, and this time lock Ratu Rotuisolia gained them some reward. But that was all the Blues defenders were prepared to give them. Fullback Zarn Sullivan, for the second time, was able to take advantage of some slick backline passing to score his second try, the Blues' only points of the half.

Blues 34 (Hoskins Sotutu 2, Zarn Sullivan 2, Caleb Clarke, Dalton Papali'i tries; Stephen Perofeta 2 con) Fijian Drua 10 (Ratu Rotuisolia try; Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula pen; Isikeli Rabitu con) HT: 29-3


Highlanders 35 Moana Pasifika 21

Moana Pasifika's first five-eighths, William Havili, landed two penalty goals in the first quarter to put the pressure on the home team in Dunedia, but an energiser bunny in the shape of fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens found a way through the defences to open the scoring while second five-eighths Sam Gilbert converted. Ten minutes later, the fullback shimmied his way close to the line and was tackled, and from the ruck, it was prop Saula Ma'u who blasted across to score. A mauling infringement saw lock Fraser Holland sin-binned, and in the resulting action, replacement loose forward Jacob Norris scored. To make matters worse, just before halftime, Moana Pasifika fullback Danny Toala timed his passing release perfectly with centre Pepesana Patifilo to put wing Nigel Ah Wong over to regain the lead 18-14.

Havili landed another penalty goal to extend the lead after halftime, but the Highlanders forwards took over, providing a mauling foundation that saw first five-eighths Rhys Patchell fling a long pass across the backline to put Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens past the outside shoulder of his defender and he had the speed to score his second try. Wing Timoci Tavatavanawai showed his skill with some clever defensive play under the high ball before joining the line to plough over after halfback Folau Fakatava and flanker Billy Harmon were each short of the line. But the best was left to last after Patchell ran from a centrefield kick; Fakatava fed flanker Sean Withy, who found a massive gap to race 40 metres, link with wing Jona Nareki, who reverse-passed to Fakatava. He flicked a backhand pass back out to Harmon, who then fed Gilbert to go in at the corner and then completed a 100 per cent conversion rate for the night.

Highlanders 35 (J Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens 2, Saula Ma'u, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Sam Gilbert tries; Gilbert 5 con) Moana Pasifika 21 (Jacob Norris, Nigel Ah Wong tries; William Havili con 3 pen). HT: 14-18


Reds 40 Waratahs 22

Reds second five-eighths Hunter Paisami set the scene at Suncorp Stadium Brisbane with a 10th-minute try off a ruck near the Waratahs line, simply powering his way through the defence. A loose Reds blindside pass was intercepted by Waratahs wing Mark Nawaqanitawase who found halfback Jake Gordon inside him to score. However, the Reds' lineout maul technique took over, and hooker Matt Faessler scored. With a try ruled out due to a forward pass, the Reds suffered more when wing Mac Grealy knocked the ball on in his 22m area. The Waratahs took advantage, and wing Dylan Pietsch capped a timely run by fullback Joey Walton to score. But Walton blotted his copybook with an early tackle on fullback Jordan Petaia just short of the line, and a penalty try was ruled.

Another lineout maul saw Faessler score his second try to extend their lead. A kick into the Waratahs' 22 by lock Miles Amatosero had unintended consequences when the ball ended up in goal with no way out. A five-metre Reds scrum saw halfback Tate McDermott take five points on the blindside. Pietsch scored a second when an in-pass rebounded off Paisami back to him. Reds centre Josh Flook then ran into space and looked outside for flanker Fraser McReight to score the final try.

Reds 40 (Hunter Paisami, Matt Faessler 2, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight tries; Penalty try; Tom Lynagh 2 con; Harry McLaughlin-Phillips 2 con) Waratahs 22 (Jake Gordon, Dylan Pietsch 2; Tane Edmed 2 con, pen). HT: 21-15

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