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Blues edge Hurricanes to go top

SUPER RUGBY SATURDAY WRAP: Harry Plummer’s perfect goal-kicking proved the difference as the Blues beat the Hurricanes 31-27 on Saturday to take over as Super Rugby competition leaders.

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A thrilling top-of-the-table match in Auckland was decided after the final hooter as the home side repelled waves of Hurricanes attacks.

Reserve Blues scrumhalf Sam Nock ripped the ball from lock Isaia Walker-Leawere to seal his side’s eighth successive win and propelled them two points ahead of their opponents in the standings.

Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu hoped his team could retain top spot through the remaining three rounds of the regular season.

“Very big result, it was a Test match for us,” he said.

“With a couple more games to go until the finals, it puts us in good stead.

“Those are the games you want to be a part of. Very tough and a see-saw battle right down to the wire.”

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The Blues’ only loss this season under new coach Vern Cotter was a 21-29 setback in the third round against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

It was just the second defeat for the Hurricanes, who matched the Blues’ four tries but weren’t as accurate off the kicking tee as flyhalf Plummer, who landed all five of his shots at goal.

Visiting captain Brad Shields lamented the late omission of his All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax, lock Caleb Delaney and centre Billy Proctor – all with undisclosed injuries before the match kicked off.

His side fell 5-14 behind after centre Bryce Heem and fullback Cole Forbes crossed for the Blues.

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Josh Moorby scored on the stroke of half-time to reduce the margin to five points and they led soon after the interval when outstanding flank Peter Lakai burrowed across the tryline.

All Black wing Mark Tele’a put the Blues back in front and prop Angus Ta’avao extended the lead before veteran Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara set up a dramatic finish.

Shields was disappointed his side couldn’t crack the Blues defence during the tense dying minutes.

“Rugby’s pretty cruel. When you get an opportunity at the end and you can’t quite get there, it’s gutting,” Shields said.

“It was very intense, it’s exactly what everyone expected.”

*In the big all-Australian derby the Brumbies scored a later try in monsoon-like conditions for a 29-21 win in Sydney.

The bonus-point victory cemented their place in the top three.

* The Crusaders suffered another blow to their title defence, beaten 32-29 by the Highlanders in Dunedin.

It was a ninth loss for the Crusaders, who outscored the home side by four tries to two but paid for their lack of discipline, with Highlanders flyhalf Cam Millar landing six penalties in a 22-point haul.

It ended a 19-match losing streak for the Highlanders against other New Zealand teams, leaving them seventh while the Crusaders are tenth.

*In the final match of the weekend, Western Force flyhalf Ben Donaldson scored 23 points on the back of a perfect kicking display to lift his side to a crushing 48-10 win over Fijian Drua in Perth.

The Force entered Saturday’s Super Rugby Pacific match in last place and knowing a loss would effectively end their finals hopes.

But spurred on by a star showing from former Wallaby Kurtley Beale and a perfect eight-out-of-eight kicking display from Donaldson, the Force romped to their third win of the season.

The six-tries-to-one win lifted the Force (3-8) from last spot into ninth, leaving them just two points adrift of the eighth-placed Drua with three rounds remaining.

The Force finish their regular season with games against the struggling Waratahs (home), fifth-placed Reds (away) and third-placed Brumbies (home), with two more wins potentially enough to secure a finals berth.

See below for Saturday’s scores and scorers!

Highlanders 32-29 Crusaders

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Tries: Tele’a, Millar
Cons: Millar 2
Pens: Millar 6

For Crusaders:
Tries: Reece 2, McLeod, Springer
Cons: Fihaki 3
Pen: Fihaki

Yellow cards: Folau Fakatava (Highlanders, 8′ -professional foul ), Jamie Hannah (Crusaders, 36′ – repeated infringements), Cam Millar (Highlanders, 81′)

Teams

Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Jake Te Hiwi, 11 Martin Bogodo, 10 Cameron Millar, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Nikora Broughton, 7 Sean Withy, 6 Oliver Haig, 5 Fabian Holland, 4 Mitch Dunshea, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Ethan de Groot (captain).
Replacements: 16 Jack Taylor, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Will Tucker, 20 Will Stodart, 21 James Arscott, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Finn Hurley.

Crusaders: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Chay Fihaki, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 David Havili, 9 Noah Hotham, 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Corey Kellow, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tamaiti Williams.
Replacements: 16 George Bell, 17 George Bower, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Tom Christie, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Macca Springer.

Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Jordan Way, Matt Kellahan
TMO: Brett Cronan

Blues 31-27 Hurricanes

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Heem, Forbes, Telea, Ta’avao
Cons: Plummer 4
Pen: Plummer

For Hurricanes:
Tries: Shields, Moorby, Lakai, Perenara
Cons: Barrett 2
Pen: Barrett

Teams:

Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Mark Tele’a, 13 AJ Lam, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Taufa Funaki, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Joshua Fusitu’a, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Josh Beehre, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Corey Evans, 23 Cole Forbes.

Hurricanes: 15 Ruben Love, 14 Josh Moorby, 13 Bailyn Sullivan, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brayden Iose, 7 Peter Lakai, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Justin Sangster, 3 Pasilio Tosi, 2 Kianu Kereru-Symes, 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Raymond Tuputupu, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Siale Lauaki, 19 Ben Grant, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 22 Richard Judd, 23 Riley Higgins.

Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin, Fraser Hannon
TMO: Chris Hart

Waratahs 21-29 Brumbies

The scorers

For the Waratahs
Tries: Gordon, Walton, Edmed
Cons: Harrison 2, Edmed

For the Brumbies
Tries: Cale, Valetini, Ikitau, Kautai
Cons: Lonergan 2, Debreczeni
Pen: Lonergan

Teams

Waratahs: 15 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 14 Triston Reilly, 13 Joey Walton, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Miles Amatosero, 4 Fergus Lee-Warner, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Jay Fonokalafi, 1 Hayden Thompson-Stringer.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sugars, 17 Lewis Ponini, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Hugh Sinclair, 20 Hunter Ward, 21 Jack Grant, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Izaia Perese.

Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Ollie Sapsford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Charlie Cale, 7 Rory Scott, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 Harry Vella.
Replacements: 16 Billy Pollard, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Declan Meredith, 23 Ben O’Donnell.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw

Western Force 48-10 Fijian Drua

The scorers:

For Western Force:
Tries: Donaldson, Kuenzle, Faifua, Wells, Tizzano, Tiatia
Cons: Donaldson 7
Pens: Donaldson 2

For Fijian Drua:
Try: Ravutaumada
Con: Armstrong-Ravula
Pen: Armstrong-Ravula

Teams

Western Force: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 George Poolman, 13 Bayley Kuenzle, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Nic White, 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Will Harris, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Jeremy Williams (captain), 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Marley Pearce.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Lopeti Faifua, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Henry Robertson, 22 Sam Spink, 23 Henry O’Donnell.

Fijian Drua: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Selestino Ravutaumada, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Michael Naitokani, 11 Taniela Rakuro, 10 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 9 Peni Matawalu, 8 Meli Derenalagi (captain), 7 Kitione Salawa, 6 Vilive Miramira, 5 Isoa Nasilasila, 4 Mesake Vocevoce, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Haereiti Hetet.
Replacements: 16 Zuriel Togiatama, 17 Emosi Tuqiri, 18 Samu Tawake, 19 Leone Rotuisolia, 20 Motikiai Murray, 21 Simione Kuruvoli, 22 Kemu Valetini, 23 Epeli Momo.

Referee: Angus Mabey
Assistant referees: Jordan Kaminsky, Marcus Playle

 

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