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Round 14 Wrap: Crusaders keep their playoff hopes alive

Round 14 Wrap: Crusaders keep their playoff hopes alive

All BlacksMay 27, 2024

A loser's bonus point allowed the Blues to retain a share of the lead in the weekend's penultimate round of DHL Super Rugby Pacific.

But to ensure a place as top qualifier, a position they hold because they have a better points differential than the second-placed Hurricanes, they will need to beat the fourth-placed Chiefs in Auckland on Saturday.

That's because the Brumbies, who are three points behind, could finish second if the Blues or Hurricanes lose their games.

The Crusaders managed a narrow 29-27 victory over the Blues, a result that keeps their qualifying hopes alive. If the Drua lose to the Rebels on Saturday, the Crusaders could potentially claim a qualifying place.

The Hurricanes could still claim first place if they beat the Highlanders in Wellington and the Blues lose. The Highlanders cemented a likely sixth- place with their 39-3 win over the Drua on Sunday.

Stats Watch:

Most tries: Sevu Reece (Crusaders) 12, Hoskins Sotutu (Blues), Tom Wright (Brumbies), Emoni Narawa (Chiefs), Tim Ryan (Reds) 9

Most carries: Harry Wilson (Reds) 139, Mark Tele'a (Blues) 138, Rob Valetini (Brumbies) 133

Most clean breaks: Joshua Moorby (Hurricanes) 18, Mark Tele'a, Caleb Clarke (Blues), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs) 15

Most defenders beaten: Iosefo Masi (Drua) 62, Tele'a 55, Selestino Ravutaumada (Drua) 53. 

Most lineouts won: Liam Wright (Reds) 62, Josh Canham (Rebels), Nick Frost (Brumbies) 51

Most metres gained: Tom Wright (Brumbies) 973, Clarke 946, Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs) 863

Most offloads: Reece 20, Nawaqanitawase, Hoskins Sotutu (Blues) 16

Most points: Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) 142, Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) 121, Ben Donaldson (Force) 111. 

Most tackles: Carlo Tizzano (Force) 229, Ryan Smith (Reds) 178, Tom Christie (Crusaders) 175. 

Chiefs 17 Hurricanes 20

Early drama greeted the Hurricanes when hooker Raymond Tuputupu's yellow card review was upgraded to red for a shoulder-to-head tackle on lock Tupou Vaa'i. Unable to score a penalty goal, the Chiefs were soon behind on the scoreboard when prop Xavier Numia was fed into a midfield gap by flanker Peter Lakai. Numia unleashed his speed and sidestep to beat the defence to the line for the opening try. It was the Chiefs' turn for a sin-binning when flanker Kaylum Boshier was called for foul play in the 25th minute. Restored to full strength, the Hurricanes launched a superb movement from a lineout. Lakai acted as halfback to feed No8 Brayden Iose, who had a head of steam. He in-passed to wing Joshua Moorby, who then linked with second five-eighths Jordie Barrett who scored with the defence spreadeagled.

Starting with a 14-0 lead, the Hurricanes were soon rocked when the backs opened out, centre Anton Lienert-Brown sprinting down the flank and in-passing to wing Emoni Narawa to score after 41 seconds. However, the Hurricanes retained their one-try buffer with a Brett Cameron penalty goal heading into the final 28 minutes. Kini Naholo was ruled offside at a ruck and sin-binned, during which time the Chiefs scored through replacement No8 Wallace Sititi, who was too strong off a lineout maul. Nine minutes remained when first five-eighths Damian McKenzie drew the Chiefs level with nine minutes left. The Hurricanes had a try ruled out due to a knock-on, but a controversial ruling that skipper Luke Jacobson had not rolled clear after making a tackle saw Cameron land the goal from 41 metres for the Hurricanes' win.

Chiefs 17 (Emoni Narawa, Wallace Sititi tries; Damian McKenzie 2 con, pen) Hurricanes 20 (Xavier Numia, Jordie Barrett tries; Brett Cameron 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 0-14

Brumbies 53 Rebels 17

It was a harsh night in Canberra for the Rebels, who were on the end of unrelenting continuity play from the hometown Brumbies. They opened their scoring with flanker Jahrome Brown crossing for a try after slick passing by the pack. Fullback Tom Wright extended his try-scoring when seeming indecision caused the Rebels defence to hold off, then open up a path through which Wright raced to score. Taking advantage of a Rebels sin-binning lock, Nick Frost and hooker Billy Pollard scored a try apiece in the last four minutes of the first half with the Brumbies leading 34-3.

Seven minutes into the second half, a reverse pass to Wright saw him run 30m on the angle to extend the Brumbies lead. The Rebels pulled some ground back when Brumbies Brown and second five-eighths Tamati Tua were sin-binned within two minutes of each other. The Rebels took advantage to score through through tries to Filipo Daugunu and Angelo Smith. No sooner had Brown returned than the Brubmies lost Leni Ikitau to the bin. However, the Rebels couldn't extend their opportunities, and the home team had a strong finish with tries to replacement prop Rhys van Nek and loose forward Luke Reimer.

Brumbies 53 (Jahrome Brown, Tom Wright 2, Nick Frost, Billy Pollard, Rhys van Nek, Luke Reimer tries; Noah Lolesio 6 con, 2 pen) Rebels 17 (Filipo Daugunu, Angelo Smith tries; Nick Jooste pen; Jake Strachan 2 con). HT: 34-3

Moana Pasifika 27 Waratahs 12

It was the Last Chance Saloon for the Waratahs at Mt Smart Stadium against Moana Pasifika, but there was no way out. They not only missed out on a playoffs chance, they will be unable to avoid the wooden spoon. Moana Pasifika scored first, and the late inclusion of Kyren Taumoefolau highlighted his immense potential when racing through a gap at speed to score. Taumoefolau's backline incursion provided space for wing Fine Inisi to head down the sideline, inter-pass with centre Pepesana Patafilo and score Moana Pasifika's second.

Up 14-0 at the break, Inisi scored his second try 47 seconds into the half, courtesy of a break by second five-eighths Julian Savea. Heading into the final quarter, legendary prop Sekope Kepu charged over from a goal line ruck in the Wallabies international's last home game for his adopted team. It was 63 minutes into the game when the Waratahs scored through No8 Langi Gleeson off a goal-line ruck, and then, five minutes later, running the ball from their line, they saw wing Dylan Pietsch race down the sideline to fling an inside pass where opposite wing Isaiah Perese was in the support to run away and complete the scoring.

Moana Pasifika 27 (Kyren Taumoefolau, Fine Inisi 2, Sekope Kepu tries; William Havili 2 con, pen) Waratahs 12 (Langi Gleeson, Isaiah Perese tries; Jack Bowen con). HT: 14-0.

Crusaders 29 Blues 27

All Blacks and Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor caught the Blues napping in the moments before halftime to take a tap penalty five metres from the line and create a chance that saw wing Chay Fihaki negate what had been a 15-7 lead. The Blues looked dominant based on the power of their ball carries and consistency in handling. Captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu was especially strong, while prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi continued his impressive run by scoring two close-quarter tries.

Losing fullback Stephen Perofeta to the sin bin when ruled to have deliberately knocked the ball down when attempting an intercept allowed the Crusaders to respond to wing AJ Lam's first try, another product of forward drive, by using the absence of a player for No8 Christian Lio-Willie to take first five-eighths Fergus Burke's crossfield kick to be unchallenged in taking the ball and scoring. It wasn't until the 61st minute that the Crusaders got in front with a well-worked try, with Fihaki's reflex pass in a tackle after a Burke break saw halfback Noah Hotham gather the ball and run in the try. Fihaki extended the lead to seven points with a penalty goal. The Blues returned with a second try to Lam, but the sideline conversion attempt by first five-eighths Harry Plummer floated just left of the posts, and the Crusaders secured a possible playoffs-saving win.

Crusaders 29 (Ethan Blackadder, Chay Fihaki, Christian Lio-Willie, Noah Hotham tries; Fergus Burke con; Chay Fihaki 2 con, pen) Blues 27 (Isa Tu'ungafasi 2, AJ Lam 2 tries; Harry Plummer 2 con, pen). HT: 12-15

Reds 59 Force 13

Reds poster boy, wing Tim Ryan, took only five minutes to set Suncorp Stadium fans' hearts a-beating when getting up to take a cross-kick to score the opening try against the Force. That gave the home team the green light to move the ball wide and often with fullback Jock Campbell running into the line and scoring down the right flank. Three minutes before halftime Reds forward power on the line saw lock Seru Uru pick up the ball and drive through the defence to score.

Dropped Force ball in midfield allowed the Reds to swoop on the loose ball and move the ball to Ryan's wing and he outsped the defence on a 40m run to score his second, three minutes into the second half. The forwards then got into the action with hooker Matt Faessler scoring from a lineout maul; then flanker Fraser McReight scored consecutive tries, the first from a goal line ruck and the second capping a sweeping backline break from their 22m area. Another lineout drive saw replacement hooker Josh Nasser cross before an inside pass from replacement James O'Connor gave Ryan his hat-trick in the game. The final say belonged to the Force, with centre Bradley Kuenzle scoring their only try. 

Reds 59 (Tim Ryan 3, Jock Campbell, Seru Uru, Matt Faessler, Fraser McReight 2, Josh Nasser tries; Tom Lynagh 3 con, 2 pen; James O'Connor con) Force 13 (Bayley Kuenzle try; Ben Donaldson 2 pen). HT: 25-6


Highlanders 39 Drua 3

After absorbing early Drua pressure at Forsyth Barr Stadium, in which two tries went begging, the Highlanders turned the pressure back on the visitors. From a strong lineout drive, the ball was released and moved for wing Jona Nareki to announce his return from injury with the opening try. From a scrum deep in their territory, Nareki took a pass from halfback Folau Fakatava, who changed direction, to burst through weak defence and give Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens a clear run to the line. A third lost chance for the Drua saw them turn down 0-18 at halftime.

Nine minutes into the second half, Nareki scored his second after some torrid Highlanders driving play and a tap penalty option on the Drua line to be followed by wing Timoci Tavatavanawai benefitting from a Sam Gilbert cross-kick and inter-passing with Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens to score. A simple interception made three minutes from the end provided replacement Nikora Broughton with a try to complete an excellent afternoon for the home team. All the Drua had to show was a penalty goal landed by first five-eighths Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula.

Highlanders 39 (Jona Nareki 2, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Nikora Broughton tries; Sam Gilbert 4 con, 2 pen) Drua 3 (Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula pen). HT: 18-0

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