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Upset wins shake up Super Rugby Pacific ladder

Upset wins shake up Super Rugby Pacific ladder

All BlacksApril 1, 2024

Upset wins over Easter weekend shook up the DHL Super Rugby Pacific points table, leaving the Hurricanes, the leaders, with a five-point buffer at the top.

The Crusaders beat the Chiefs to achieve their first win in six games. That loss allowed the Blues and Brumbies to jump into a share of second place while dropping the Chiefs to fourth.

The Reds' one-point loss to the Brumbies was their second consecutive loss, dropping them to fifth.

But the big movers were the Rebels, who moved to sixth after their win over the Waratahs in Sydney.

Statistics watch:

Most tries: Corey Toole (Brumbies), Matt Faessler (Reds), Iosefo Masi (Drua) 6.

Most carries: Mark Tele'a (Blues), Seru Uru (Reds) 78, Peter Lakai (Hurricanes) , Harry Wilson (Reds) 70.

Most clean breaks: Toole, Josh Moorby (Hurricanes) 10, Etene Nanai-Seturo(Chiers), Chase Tiatia (Force) 9.

Most defenders beaten: Tele'a, Selestino Ravutaumada (Drua) 29, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Highlanders), Masi 26.

Most lineouts won: Nic Frost (Brumbies) 29, Liam Wright (Reds), Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Rebels) 24.

Most metres gained: Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs) 522, Eroni Clarke (Blues) 469, Tom Wright (Brumbies) 451.

Most offloads: Tele'a, Billy Proctor (Hurricanes) 10, Stevenson, Wilson 9.

Most points: Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) 64, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula (Drua) 60, Stephen Perofeta (Blues) 57.

Most tackles won: Tom Christie (Crusaders) 127, George Bell (Crusaders) 101, Carlo Tizzano (Force) 95.

Crusaders 37 Chiefs 26

Livewire halfback Noah Hotham showed no nerves when intended Crusaders captain Mitch Drummond fell ill on game day. His speed from the base of the ruck ignited the dormant Crusaders fires and set up their first try after five minutes, courtesy of a blindside break and kick ahead, which saw fullback Chay Fihaki win the race to touchdown. Six minutes later, quick ball from a goal line ruck saw Hotham flick the ball to left-wing Johnny McNicholl to score. Chiefs wing Emoni Narawa topped off the Chiefs' response by scoring after a long pass from fullback Shaun Stevenson. Wing Sevu Reece cleared a ruck to see the ball move across the field for McNicholl to feed No8 Cullen Grace in the corner. Clever running, again, by Chiefs' first five-eighths Josh Jacomb, saw him link with wing Etene Nanai-Seturo and prop George Dyer, who scored to lead 22-12 at halftime. But two key tries stymied the Chiefs' hopes. The first was an impressive 45m angled run by hooker George Bell, and the second was a heart-breaker intercept by McNicholl after centre Anton Lienert-Brown had scored to close the gap. Replacement halfback Cortez Ratima capped a good move to score, but it was too late for the Chiefs.

The statistics revealed how hard the Crusaders needed to fight. They were required to make 191 tackles to 112 and missed 28. The Chiefs won eight turnovers to four. The Chiefs also made 164 carries to 118 and 237 passes to 16 while winning 119 rucks to 69. Bell made an impressive 82 metres, well ahead of any other forward, and for good measure, he threw in 21 tackles to top the individual defensive effort.

Crusaders 37 (Chay Fihaki, Johnny McNicholl 2, Cullen Grace, George Bell tries; Riley Hohepa 2 con, pen; Rivez Reihana con, pen) Chiefs 26 (Emoni Narawa, George Dyer, Anton Lienert-Brown, Cortez Ratima tries; Josh Jacomb con; Josh Ioane 2 con). HT: 22-12

Waratahs 21 Rebels 29

It was like a contest of the last man standing in Sydney. The Waratahs lost three intended starters before the game, including crucial flanker Charlie Gamble. In the first half, the Rebels lost Test flanker Josh Kemeny before kick-off and fullback Jake Strachan and wing Lachie Anderson during the first half. Yet, the Rebels' win belied the statistics. They were beaten for possession in everything but their scrums, mauls, and offloads. But the Waratahs paid the price for conceding 18 penalties to four by the visitors.

As it to portend their fortunes on the night, the Rebels scored first, early in the second quarter, when halfback Ryan Louwrens benefited from a quick tap, a series of favourable bounces and the support of Anderson, who took his pass to score. The Waratahs returned after some untidy passing when flanker Lachie Swinton straightened the attack and ran 30m to score. The Rebels led 10-7 at the turn, but No8 Langi Gleeson scored when fed from a goalline ruck at the start of the fourth quarter for the Waratahs to reclaim the lead. The Rebels reclaimed the lead with a lineout maul, setting up replacement wing Lachie Anderson to score in the corner, and then followed that with prop Taniela Tupou, the game's scrummaging powerhouse, barging across from another goalline ruck. Waratahs' replacement back, Will Harrison, opened the defence for fellow benchmate Jack Grant to reduce the margin. On full-time, wide open space on the left flank saw centre Filipo Daugunu seal the win with a try.

Waratahs 21 (Lachlan Swinton, Jack Grant, Langi Gleeson tries; Tane Edmed 2 con; Will Harrison con) Rebels 29 (Darby Lancaster, Taniela Tupou, Filipo Daugunu, Lachie Anderson tries; Carter Gordon 3 con, pen). HT: 10-7

Fijian Drua 31 Force 13

As if meeting the Drua in Lautoka wasn't challenging enough, the Force had to contend with heavy rain, conditions that saw the Drua produce a commanding performance. The Force mauled their way to the game's first try, but the Fijians refused to stop moving the ball in the wet conditions and wing Epeli Momo was too strong when going over in the corner after 12 minutes. Moments later, wing Selestino Ravutaumada was given the ball from a scrum tap penalty taken by halfback Frank Lomani and raced 50m untouched to score.

Force wing Chase Tiatia showed his strength in the wet to cross before halftime, but when centre Iosefo Masi raced onto a perfectly weighted grubber kick in-goal by first five-eighths Isaiah Armstrong Ravula, who scored 16 points with his boot in the game, to score, there was no chance of the Force denying the home team their win. They dominated in critical areas, gaining 547 metres to 279 and beating 36 defenders to 14, while the Force had to make 149 tackles to 97.

Fijian Drua 31 (Epeli Momo,Selestino Ravutaumada, Iosefo Masi tries; Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula 2 con, 4 pen) Force 13 (Tom Horton, Chase Tiatia tries; Ben Donaldson pen). HT: 18-10

Moana Pasifika 8 Blues 47

Relishing perfect conditions at Eden Park, the Blues conceded their home ground to Moana Pasifika for the day, but that was all they were prepared to give up. They ran in seven tries, all by backs, to one, three of them scored by All Blacks wing Mark Tele'a. Despite winning only 45 per cent of possession, the Blues dominated across the field. They made 911 metres to 545, beat 39 defenders to 17, made 12 clean breaks to two and 16 offloads to 10. Yet, the Blues made 175 tackles to 134 to deny Moana Pasifika any sniff of a chance. Moana Pasifika won 11 lineouts to four and 101 rucks to 89.

Tele'a scored the first try 13 minutes after the start after tidying work by second five-eighths Bryce Heem opened space, and then first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta stole a try when Moana Pasifika left a gap at a ruck in midfield 30m out in the 22nd minute. No8 Hoskins Sotutu and flying wing Caleb Clarke combined for the third try after 30 minutes before four minutes later, a Heem burst through two tacklers saw him run 40m to score. It said something of Moana Pasifika's day that their only try came from their mistake, which was covered by flanker Sione Havili's Talitui's covering work three minutes from halftime. Halfback Finlay Christie celebrated 50 games with the first try of the second half. Tele'a's dancing feet at a goal line ruck opened a gap for his second try, and then centre Rieko Ioane, Sotutu and Tele'a combined in a 60m move to present Tele'a with his third try.

Moana Pasifika 8 (Sione Havili Talitui try; Christian Leali'ifano pen) Blues 47 (Mark Tele'a 3, Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke, Bryce Heem, Finlay Christie tries; Perofeta 6 con). HT: 28-8

Highlanders 12 Hurricanes 47

Forsyth Barr Stadium proved the wrong place to be at the wrong time for the home team as the Hurricanes got as close to an 80-minute performance as most sides could wish for. Continuity, clarity and unrelenting pressure saw the forwards overpower the Highlanders close to their line in the early stages as tries to prop Xavier Numia, flanker Peter Lakai and hooker Asafo Aumua gave their side a points cushion. Halfback Cameron Roigard built on that before halftime, where the Hurricanes led 26-0. Roigard was later forced from the field with a knee injury, but that only allowed replacement TJ Perenara the chance to score his 60th try for the side, one short of equalling the Super Rugby try-scoring record. Intercepts at either end of the second half to Josh Moorby and Justin Sangster completed the scoring for the competition leaders.

The Highlanders scored twice through halfback Folau Fakatava and fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens but could not achieve the consistency of continuity the Hurricanes managed. Defensively, the Highlanders made only 117 tackles compared to 155 by the Hurricanes, and they missed 41, while the visitors missed only 20. The Hurricanes also made 26 offloads to seven and conceded 15 penalties to nine, while the home team won 96 rucks to 73. However, the Hurricanes used the ball better, gaining 885 metres to 656 to be more ruthless in their running execution.

Highlanders 12 (Folau Fakatava, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens tries; Sam Gilbert con) Hurricanes 47 (Xavier Numia, Peter Lakai, Asafo Aumua, Cameron Roigard, Josh Moorby, TJ Perenara, Justin Sangster tries; Brett Cameron 4 con; Jordie Barrett 2 con). HT: 0-26

Reds 19 Brumbies 20

The Reds started at full pace, first five-eighths Tom Lynagh turning the ball inside on the Brumbies' 22m line to lock Seru Uru before prop Peni Ravai passed to centre Josh Flook to score in the second minute. But in the 13th minute, Brumbies fullback Tom Wright made a lovely outside break past his marker and had enough weigh-on to score the try wide out. A penalty goal from 45m out to first five-eighths Noah Lolesio gave the visitors a 10-7 lead at the break. The Reds reclaimed the lead courtesy of a penalty try for replacement Zane Nonggorr taking down a lineout maul after 54 minutes. Three minutes later, they punished the Brumbies with a more successful maul which saw replacement hooker Josh Nasser score. But into the final quarter, the Reds allowed Wright to take another outside break to pull the Brumbies back within catching distance. Then, Brumbies' scrum power yielded a penalty, which allowed Lolesio to convert the goal for a one-point lead they maintained until the end.

The result will leave the Reds wondering why they couldn't take advantage of their possession. They gained 708 metres to 413, made 129 carries to 101, beat 27 defenders to 11, made eight clean breaks to four and had the better of the tackle count, making 124 tackles to 146 and missing only 11 compared to 27 by the Brumbies. But they conceded 15 turnovers to 10.

Reds 19 (Josh Flook, Josh Nasser tries; Penalty try; Tom Lynagh con) Brumbies 20 (Tom Wright 2 tries; Noah Lolesio 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 7-10

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