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Stunning Blues win puts them hot on the Hurricanes tail

Stunning Blues win puts them hot on the Hurricanes tail

All BlacksApril 28, 2024

Super Rugby Pacific's Anzac Weekend round produced plenty of surprises led by the Hurricanes losing their first match of the season.

The Brumbies bounced back from their thrashing by the Blues a week earlier to claim a 27-19 win in Canberra. The Blues moved to second place, one point behind the Hurricanes who still lead the competition while the Brumbes are third.

The Crusaders lifted themselves from the bottom of the ladder to get within an ace of breaking into the top eight with their 39-0 win over the Rebels. The Force are in that position after their 6-7 loss to the Highlanders, who moved to eighth, in Dunedin.

While the Chiefs beat the Waratahs 38-22, first five-eighths Damian McKenzie was the first player to post 100 points in the season and sits on 103.

Stats Watch

Most tries: Hoskins Sotutu (Blues) 9, Cortez Ratima (Chiefs), Sevu Reece (Crusaders) 8

Most carries: Harry Wilson (Reds) 116, Mark Tele'a (Blues) 106, Jacob Ratumataivuki-Kneepkens (Highlanders) 93

Most clean breaks: Chase Tiatia (Force) 13, Joshua Moorby (Hurricanes) 12, Telea, Corey Toole (Brumbies) 11

Most defenders beaten: Iosefo Masi (Fiji) 48, Tele'a, Timoci Tavatavanawai (Highlanders) 39

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

Most metres gained: Tom Wright (Brumbies) 707, Caleb Clarke (Blues) 695, Ratumataivuki-Kneepkens 677

Most offloads: Reece, Wilson 13, Wright 12

Most points: Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) 103, Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) 91, Tane Edmed (Waratahs) 82

Most tackles: Tom Christie (Crusaders) 151, Carlo Tizzano (Force) 148, Billy Harmon (Highlanders) 142.

Crusaders 39 Rebels 0

They're back! The Crusaders found their mojo in destroying the Rebels and holding them scoreless in an emphatic display in Christchurch. The return of captain and lock Scott Barrett ensured heft in the pack, and the Crusaders' scrum was so dominant the Rebels' front row was replaced after 30 minutes. It didn't change a lot. No8 Christian Lio-Willie's performance in the re-jigged loose forwards was rewarded with two tries, while openside flanker Cullen Grace scored a try. It wasn't full-blown efficiency from the defending champions, but it was more encouraging than many of their recent performances. The lineout drive proved effective and provided a try for replacement prop Owen Franks, his first since 2010. The Crusaders extended their lead in the later stages with two well-taken tries to wing Sevu Reece and fullback Johnny McNicholl.

It was a reality call for the Rebels, who were outdone on the statistics sheet. The Crusaders beat 34 defenders to three, and when running 548 metres to 191, that was amply reflected in the final margin. The Crusaders won eight turnovers to three and won 83 rucks to 55. As well as dominating the scrums, they took three lineouts off the visitors. The discipline of the Crusaders was reflected in their conceding only three penalties to 12 by the Rebels.

Crusaders 39 (Christian Lio-Willie 2, Cullen Grace, Owen Franks, Sevu Reece, Johnny McNicholl tries; Rivez Reihana 3 con, pen) Rebels 0. HT: 10-0

Waratahs 22 Chiefs 38

Discipline issues in the first quarter saw wing Etene Nanai-Seturo and lock Tupou Vaa'i sin-binned, during which time the Reds helped themselves to two tries resulting from lineout drives. But once restored to full numbers, the Chiefs reassembled and mounted their response. Unfortunately, in scoring their first try, fullback Shaun Stevenson pulled a hamstring and was forced from the game. But with first five-eighths Damian McKenzie playing the conductor, his long-passing saw wing Emoni Narawa cross for two tries. Halfback Cortez Ratima's support play and speed on the break added to the class displayed on attack by the Chiefs. No8 Wallace Sititi was too strong off the back of the scrum to score, and captain and flanker Kaylum Boshier wrapped the win with a superb flying pick-up of loose ball to round defending wing Mark Nawaquanitawase with ease.

The Waratahs were combative, as expected, and while having a fair share of possession, they lacked the finish of their rivals. The Chiefs made nine clean breaks to five and were assured in their defence when making 154 tackes to 135. Their scrum secured nine wins to four and stole four Reds lineouts.

Waratahs 22 (Julian Heaven, Jake Gordon, Lachlan Swinton tries; Tane Edmed con, pen; Will Harrison con) Chiefs 38 (Shaun Stevenson, Emoni Narawa 2, Cortez Ratima, Wallace Sititi, Kaylum Boshier tries; 4 con). HT: 12-12

Fijian Drua 24 Moana Pasifika 17

The Drua made an early showing of their enjoyment at being back in front of their Lautoka fans when after a minute, centre Iosefo Masi broke through a gap out wide and then fed wing Taniela Rakuro, who headed infield around a defender before straightening to run in a try beneath the posts. Five minutes from halftime, Rakuro fielded a kick from deep in the Moana Pasifika 22m area. Running across the field, he passed to right-wing Selestino Ravutaumada. He dropped the ball onto his foot and kicked to space. With the ball bouncing just over the goal line, he dived to beat the defence and score for a 17-0 halftime lead.

Moana Pasifika used a long lineout throw, which Christian Leali'ifano took. From the midfield ruck when he was tackled, centre Henry Taefu fed wing Viliami Fini, who kicked to the in-goal. The Drua could not control the ball, and Taefu, following through, dived on the ball to score. The Drua extended their lead when Rakuro scored his second try. With eight minutes left, a Moana Pasifika lineout move produced a try for No8 Sione Havili-Talitui and four minutes later, after a penalty to the corner, another lineout variation produced a try for hooker Sama Malolo with Leali'ifano's conversion ensuring a bonus point at least for the visitors.

Parity between the sides was relatively even, although Moana Pasifika conceded 19 turnovers to 11 and was required to make 149 tackles compared to 113 by the Drua.

Fijian Drua 24 (Taniela Rakuro 2, Selestino Ravutaumada tries; Isaia Armstrong-Ravula 3 con, pen) Moana Pasifika 17 (Henry Taefu, Sione Havili-Talitui, Sama Malolo tries; Christian Leali'ifano con). HT: 17-0


Brumbies 27 Hurricanes 19

Turning around after their 46-7 thumping by the Blues last week, the Brumbies took only four minutes to get a reward when first five-eighths Noah Lolesio was wide on the blindside to take a pass and score in the corner. However, the Hurricanes responded well, and while he took a pass from halfback TJ Perenara that bounced across the ground, prop Xavier Numia took it well, drove low and got over the line to score. The good work was undone when second five-eighths Tamati Tua burst through a gaggle of forwards and sprinted for a try too easily scored. Moments later, they followed that with more short-side play that saw flanker Rob Valetini and centre Len Ikitau combine to give wing Oliver Sapsford space down the sideline to score. The Hurricanes used Numia's strength to score their second before halftime. The damage had been done and while wing Salesi Rayasi's strong run provided the foundation for second five-eighths Jordie Barrett's try, it was the only points they could score in the second half.

It's only possible to play with consistent ball, and the Brumbies confined the Hurricanes to only 38 percent of possession. The home team used that to put 689 metres gained on the competition leaders, who made only 320 metres. The Brumbies also made 149 carries to 80 and beat 34 defenders to 18. The Hurricanes needed to make 172 tackles to 95 by the home team, and they missed 41 tackles to 12. The Hurricanes lineout also conceded three turnovers.

Brumbies 27 (Noah Lolesio, Tamati Tua, Ollie Sapsford tries; Lolesio 3 con, 2 pen) Hurricanes 19 (Xavier Numia 2, Jordie Barrett tries; Brett Cameron 2 con) HT: 24-12

Highlanders 7 Force 6

High Anxiety seemed to sum up this contest in Dunedin, where both teams were guilty of unforced errors in a game that was significant to them. Ultimately, it was the home team, courtesy of a second-half try to halfback Folau Fakatava, who could lift themselves into the top eight while the Force were left at the bottom of the table, five points behind the Highlanders. Given the Force's penchant for kicking, it was appropriate their only points were penalty goals landed by first five-eighths Ben Donaldson, but it was one he missed in the 51st minute that made the latter stages of the game more desperate. Handling errors afflicted both sides and proved costly, especially for the Perth-based side.

The Highlanders edged the possession stakes with 52 per cent of the ball, gained 538 metres to 342, and beat 23 defenders to seven. It was symptomatic of the errors committed that they had to make 146 tackles to 101. The Highlanders also won 10 turnovers to two, and that was typified by skipper Billy Harmon, lock Jason Holland and hooker Henry Bell each of whom picked up crucial turnovers.

Highlanders 7 (Folau Fakatava try; Cameron Millar con) Force (Ben Donaldson 2 pen). HT: 0-3

Reds 34 Blues 41

The Blues did it the hard way, scoring their winning try in the 82nd minute, when replacement halfback Sam Nock supported flying replacement wing Caleb Clarke and took his pass and scored. The game was about fighting back after the Reds overturned the 7-13 halftime deficit, with wing Suliasi Vunivalu scoring in the 48th minute with debut starting wing Tim Ryan following him over the line two minutes later. Ryan had a sensational night running in a hat-trick of tries, the best of them his last in the 64th minute. Replacement halfback Louis Werchon ran blind and fed Ryan, who veered infield then out, before cutting past the tackler Cole Forbes to give the Reds a 31-20 lead. But one minute later, the Blues started their comeback when Forbes marked the ball in his 22m and immediately tapped and ran. Wing Mark Tele'a carried the ball on and then linked with wing AJ Lam and he threw a pass inside where Hoskins Sotutu could run in the try. 

The Reds edged seven points in front with a penalty goal, but the Blues hit back in the 76th minute with a strong surge at the line that saw replacement hooker Kurt Eklund score close to the posts. With the scores level and the final hooter having sounded, the Reds knocked the ball on, and Nock moved the ball to replacement flanker James Thompson. Drawing his marker, he put Clarke in space. He veered infield and then passed to Nock, who did the rest. It capped a big night for the Blues halfbacks, Taufa Funaki having had an outstanding first half, making two try-saving tackles and winning several balls at breakdowns.

Reds 34 (Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Suliasi Vunivalu, Tim Ryan 3 tries; Tom Lynagh 2 con; Lawson Creighton con, pen) Blues 41 (Patrick Tuipulotu, Cole Forbes, Angus Ta'avao, Hoskins Sotutu, Kurt Eklund, Sam Nock tries; Harry Plummer 4 con, pen). HT: 7-13

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