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Highlanders draw first blood in Super Rugby Pacific

SATURDAY WRAP: The Highlanders recorded their first win of the season when they defeated Moana Pasifika by 35-21 in the new Super Rugby Pacific in Dunedin on Saturday.


Flyhalf Rhys Patchell, who has played 22 Tests, directed play expertly with the boot and produced a sublime home win in Dunedin.

The 30-year-old produced arguably the play of the game when his 30m cut-out pass put Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens outside a defender and free to run to the line for the fullback’s second try.

That drew the scores level at 21-21 early in the second half before the Highlanders took control.

Patchell, whose one-season deal ruled him out of contention for the Six Nations, is part of an increased Welsh presence in Super Rugby this year.

Former long-serving Test flyhalf Stephen Jones has joined Moana Pasifika as an assistant coach.

Fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who played 105 Tests for Wales, has signed with the Crusaders.


However, 35-year-old Halfpenny is expected to miss most of the season with a chest injury sustained on his debut for the Crusaders, in a pre-season tour match against Ireland’s Munster.

*Fiji rugby’s long season of success has come to a sudden end when the Fijian Drua were beaten 34-10 by the Blues in the first round of Super Rugby Pacific.

Fans of Fiji have had much to celebrate over the past nine months as the Drua reached the Super Rugby quarter-finals for the first time last year and the Fiji national team went on to reach the quarters of the World Cup, beating Australia on the way.

There was hope that that success would carry over into a new season for the Drua. But the Blues put an end to those hopes when they ran in five tries to lead 29-3 by halftime on Saturday at Whangarei north of Auckland.


Caleb Clarke scored under the posts as first receiver from one scrum and fullback Zarn Sullivan scored in the left corner from another. The Blues always were dangerous in the outside channels and captain Dalton Papali’i scored in the right corner when the Drua cover defence was fully stretched.

The Drua were unlucky to concede another try close to the main break when they muffed the clearance of an Angus Ta’avao charge down and Hoskins Sotutu scored his second try of the half. He also scored the Blues first try at a breakdown on the Drua line.

The Drua’s only points of the first half came from a penalty to flyhalf Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula who also received a yellow card in his Super Rugby debut.

The Blues’ Finlay Christie also was yellow carded at the start of the second half, in the play that led up to the Drua’s first try. The visitors tapped a penalty close to the Blues line and scored on the next phase through lock Leone Rotuisolia.

Almost 20 minutes passed before Sullivan’s second try increased the Blues’ lead to 34-10.

*Les Kiss’s Reds tenure has begun with flashes of brilliance and moments of plain ridiculousness as the hosts beat the Waratahs in a nine-try Super Rugby Pacific skirmish.

The Reds’ 40-22 win on Saturday night wasn’t short of highlights, the rivals chancing their arms in a feisty season opener.

The hosts also won the scrum, ruck and line-out in a tick for Kiss, the former Queensland State of Origin wing with a decade of European coaching experience who has replaced long-term mentor Brad Thorn.

Kiss had encouraged his men to test their limits and they certainly did that, fullback Jordan Petaia the ultimate example in front of 14,593 fans.

The enigmatic two-time World Cup centre mixed errors with the incredible.

His torpedoed volley, booted out of the air as he ran towards the sideline to gather a long Waratahs kick, soared more than 50 metres down the sideline was hard to believe.

He was also awarded a penalty try on halftime when Max Jorgensen was ruled to have tackled him before regathering winger Suliasi Vunivalu’s clever grubber while at full flight.

That try gave the Reds a 21-15 lead and sent the fullback, returning from a broken leg, to the bin for 10 minutes.

After six lead changes in the first half the Reds then put the foot down.

Matt Faessler crossed for his second try of the night and Tate McDermott scored in the corner from Harry Wilson’s trick play, the superb No.8 heeling to himself and flicking a pass between his legs.

Dylan Pietsch then used pace and some luck to grab his second for the visitors, a pass inside bouncing off a Reds defender and back into his hands to score.

But Fraser McReight’s effort soon after shut down any hopes of a comeback, Vunivalu evasive and No.13 Josh Flook running a great line to put the flank over after Petaia’s incredible kick earned them prime field position.

Additional source @AAP

Saturday’s scores and scorers

Fijian Drua 10-34 Blues

For Fijian Drua:
Tries: Rotuisolia
Con: Rabitu
Pen: Ravula

For Blues:
Tries: Sotutu 2, Clarke, Sullivan 2, Papalii
Cons: Perofeta (2)


Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Mark Tele’a, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i (captain), 6 Anton Segner, 5 Josh Beehre, 4 Sam Darry, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Joshua Fusitu’a
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Laghlan McWhannell, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 AJ Lam, 23 Cole Forbes

Fijian Drua: 15 Isikeli Rabitu, 14 Epeli Momo, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Apisalome Vota, 11 Selestino Ravutaumada, 10 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Meli Derenalagi (captain), 7 Ella Canakaivata, 6 Etonia Waqa, 5 Leone Rotuisolia, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Livai Natave
Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Emosi Tuqiri, 18 Jone Koroiduadua, 19 Mesake Vocevoce, 20 Vilive Miramira, 21 Peni Matawalu, 22 Kemu Valetini, 23 Tudraki Samusamuvodre

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

Highlanders 35-21 Maona Pasifika

For Highlanders:
Tries: Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens 2, Mau, Tavatavanawai, Gilbert
Cons: Gilbert 5

For Moana Pasifika:
Tries: Norris, Ah Wong
Con: Havili
Pen: Havili 3


Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sam Gilbert, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Billy Harmon (captain), 6 Sean Withy, 5 Fabian Holland, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Saula Ma’u, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Jack Taylor, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Oliver Haig, 20 Nikora Broughton, 21 Nathan Hastie, 22 Cameron Millar, 23 Jonah Lowe

Moana Pasifika: 15 Danny Toala, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Pepesane Patafilo, 12 Julian Savea, 11 Viliami Fine, 10 William Havili, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Lotu Inisi, 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Miracle Faillagi, 5 Samuel Slade, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Sione Mafielo, 2 Sama Malolo, 1 James Lay (captain)
Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Abraham Pole, 18 Suetena Asomua, 19 Allan Craig, 20 Jacob Norris, 21 Aisea Halo, 22 D’Angelo Leuila, 23 Anzleo Tuitavuki

Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: James Mabey, Marcus Playle

Reds 40-22 Waratahs

For Reds:
Tries: Paisami, Faessler 2
Cons: Lynagh 2, McLaughlin-Phillips 2

For Waratahs:
Tries: Gordon, Pietsch 2
Cons: Edmed 2
Pen: Edmed


Reds: 15 Jordan Petaia, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Mac Grealy, 10 Tom Lynagh, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright, 5 Ryan Smith, 4 Seru Uru, 3 Zane Nonggorr, 2 Matt Faessler, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Cormac Daly, 20 John Bryant, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, 23 Jock Campbell

Waratahs: 15 Joey Walton, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Langi Gleeson, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Miles Amatosero, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Theo Fourie, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Daniel Botha, 19 Sam Thomson, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Teddy Wilson, 22 Harry Wilson, 23 Max Jorgensen

Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Dan Waenga, Mike Winter


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