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Mixed fortunes for New Zealand sides in round nine

Mixed fortunes for New Zealand sides in round nine

All BlacksApril 22, 2024

Only three New Zealand sides are in the top eight of the DHL Super Rugby Pacific competition, although the Moana Pasifika team based in New Zealand is eighth on the ladder.

The Hurricanes, after a 38-15 drubbing of the Fijian Drua, are five points clear of the second-placed Blues, who beat the Brumbies, who had shared second place with them, 46-7.

The Reds moved to sixth after beating the Highlanders 31-0, only the fifth time the Southerners have failed to score in Super Rugby.

The Force secured a win over the Crusaders for the first time in 10 years. The defending champion Crusaders are at the bottom of the ladder. Crusaders wing Sevu Reece claimed the scoring record for his side when passing Caleb Ralph's mark of 52.

Statistics watch:

Most tries: Hoskins Sotutu (Blues) 8, Cortez Ratima (Chiefs), Corey Toole (Brumbies) 7.

Most carries: Harry Wilson (Reds) 99, Mark Tele'a (Blues) 92, Seru Uru (Reds) 91

Most clean breaks: Chase Tiatia (Force) 13, Josh Moorby (Hurricanes) 12, Toole 11.

Most defenders beaten: Iosefo Masi (Drua) 41, Tele'a 38, Timoci Tavatavanawai (Highlanders), Selestino Ravutaumada (Drua) 34.

Most lineouts won: Liam Wright (Reds) 37, Nick Frost (Brumbies), Josh Canham (Rebels) 34.

Most metres gained: Caleb Clarke (Blues) 634, Masi 590, Tele'a, Tom Wright (Brumbies) 559.

Most offloads: Harry Wilson (Reds) 12, Sevu Reece (Crusaders) 11, Tele'a, Wright, Damian McKenzie (Chiefs), Folau Fakatava (Highlanders), Billy Proctor (Hurricanes 10.

Most Points: McKenzie 95, Tane Edmed (Waratahs) 77, Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) 74

Most tackles won: Tom Christie (Crusaders) 151, Carlo Tizzano (Force) 134, Billy Harmon (Highlanders) 126.

Fijian Drua 15 Hurricanes 38

Not even three second-half yellow cards could halt the Hurricanes' momentum when dishing out the first home loss to the Drua this season. Six minutes into the evening game in Suva, the Drua failed to contain a kick ahead by wing Salesi Rayasi, and in the aftermath, centre Billy Proctor was on hand as halfback TJ Perenara tidied up and fed him in. The Drua replied after centre Iosefo Masi took the ball from the base of a ruck, took a gap and fed first five-eighths Isikeli Rabitu, who ran 30m to score. In the 15th minute, No8 Devan Flanders crossed from a five-metre scrum. Seven minutes from halftime, Proctor broke into space, had Perenara supporting inside, and passed to second five-eighths Jordie Barrett, who ran in a try. A lineout maul in the 39th minute provided the try for hooker James O'Reilly. After the break, the Hurricanes were put under the pump as the Drua scored through flanker Kitione Salawa at a lineout maul. Two yellow cards to flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi and lock Isaia Leawere-Walker within a minute of each other, but the Drua could only score a penalty goal. Lock Caleb Delany was also sin-binned, but the leaders finished strongest with prop Xavier Numia's try, which ensured a bonus point.

Fiji had all the statistical advantages to win, including a possession advantage of 67-33, but failed to score the points. They gained 618 metres to 292, had 158 carries to 65, beat 36 defenders to 20 and were required to make only 52 tackles compared to 236 by the Hurricanes. They won 126 rucks to 35 and 19 lineouts to nine, while in a rare show of indiscipline, the Hurricanes conceded 16 penalties to six.

Fijian Drua 15 (Isikeli Rabitu, Kitione Salawa tries; Kemu Valetini con, pen) Hurricanes 38 (Billy Proctor, Devan Flanders, Jordie Barrett, James O'Reilly, Xavier Numia tries; Barrett con, pen; Aidan Morgan 4 con). HT: 7-28

Reds 31 Highlanders 0

In Brisbane, the Reds created a split on the points table and claimed sixth position in achieving their first points shut-out since 1999. Three minutes into the game, Reds second five-eighths Hunter Paisami pulled in a long pass from halfback Kalani Thomas to score an easy try. From a goal-line melee, lock Ryan Smith got low and drove through defenders to score. Into the final quarter, the Reds scrum gained a penalty short of the Hurricanes' line but, under advantage, the ball was moved and replacement back Lawson Creighton was fed into a gap to score. To rub salt into the Highlanders' wounds, in the last minute, a cross-kick from Paisami was touched but not held by replacement Highlander Jacob Ratumataivuki-Kneepkens, and wing Suli Vunivalu took the ball and stepped inside Ratumataivuki-Kneepkens to score.

Like the Drua above, the Highlanders will look at their statistics and wonder where things went wrong. They gained 412 metres to 332, made 152 carries to 112, and beat 31 defenders to 17. They made 11 offloads to five and missed only 17 tackles to 31 missed by the Reds. They were required to make 141 tackles compared to 183 by the Reds. But they did concede 15 penalties to nine.

Reds 31 (Hunter Paisami, Ryan Smith, Lawson Creighton, Suli Vunivalu tries; Tom Lynagh 2 con, pen; Lawson Creighton 2 con). HT: 17-0


Blues 46 Brumbies 7

The Brumbies were given a lesson in power rugby while suffering their heaviest loss to the Blues. They had their chances on the Blues line, but in the first half, they never looked like they were penetrating the home defence. By comparison, the Blues were powerful, patient, and purposeful in every chance they got. No8 Hoskins Sotutu was a menace the line driving through twice for first half tries, the second coming after a dreadful mistake kicking a goal line dropout directly into touch. The Blues opted for a scrum, and Sotutu made it 24-0 at the break.

The second half was no better as the Blues showed impressive consistency in their approach, and while the Brumbies finally got their lineout maul working to provide the foundation for replacement back Luke Reimer's try, they were denied enough possession to get into the game at any stage. The statistics highlighted the Brumbies' plight. The Blues carried 599 metres to 213, made 158 carries to 46, beat 24 defenders to four, made 10 offloads to one and won 16 turnovers to eight. They only had to make 61 tackles compared to 207 for the Brumbies, who missed 24 tackles to four. The Blues also won 125 rucks to 30 with 71 per cent possession.

Blues 46 (Hoskins Sotutu 2, Caleb Clarke, Dalton Papali'i, Taufa Funaki, Ricky Riccitelli, Kurt Eklund tries, Harry Plummer 4 con, pen) Brumbies 7 (Luke Reimer try; Noah Lolesio con) HT: 24-0

Force 37 Crusaders 15

Making a positive start with centre Levi Aumua crossing for the opening try in the fourth minute in Perth after fullback Chay Fihaki gave wing Sevu Reece room down the wing before he passed to Aumua. Force wing Chase Tiatia took advantage of Reece, who had moved infield to race down the left flank to score. The Crusaders lost second five-eighths Dallas McLeod to injury, and just before halftime, hooker Tom Horton scored for the home team to go to the break with a 16-5 lead. Coming back after the break, the Crusaders worked a lineout move that saw hooker George Bell returned the ball after throwing in. He raced down the left flank and crossed in the tackle. Reece became the Crusaders' highest try scorer when crossing to get them within reach at 22-15. But as was the case throughout, penalty goals to Donaldson kept the Force score ticking over. A try to lock Sam Carter extended the lead with eight minutes to go, and then just on full-time, flanker Carlo Tizzano sealed the try at a lineout maul.

Despite enjoying 61 per cent of possession, the Crusaders could not use it in a game where Force's first five-eighths, Ben Donaldson, punished them with five penalty goals. The Crusaders gained 498 metres to 275, made 141 carries to 72, won 107 rucks to 54, and beat 34 defenders to 11. They made only 70 tackles compared to 206 by the Force.

Force 37 (Chase Tiatia, Tom Horton, Sam Carter, Carlo Tizzano tries; Ben Donaldson con, 5 pen) Crusaders 15 (Levi Aumua, George Bell, Sevu Reece tries). HT: 16-5

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