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Brumbies book home quarters, Blues dent Highlanders' hopes

SUPER RUGBY WRAP: The Blues have opened the final weekend of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season with a 16-9 home win over the Highlanders that severely dented the visitors’ playoff hopes and opened the door for three of their rivals.


The Blues had to grind out a victory which ensured them third place in the standings and a home quarterfinal but fell short of the big win which would have given them a shot at overhauling the Crusaders in second.

Only skipper Patrick Tuipulotu managed to breach the steely Highlanders defence but that try, added to three penalties and a conversion from the boot of centre Harry Plummer, proved enough to prevail in an arm-wrestle of a contest.

The Highlanders were looking for a first victory over New Zealand opposition in 16 matches and needed a bonus-point win to be sure of a spot in the play-offs.

They drew first blood with a Sam Gilbert penalty, with the Blues not hitting the front until lock Tuipulotu barged over the line for the only try of the night just shy of the half-hour mark.

The Highlanders showed little attacking intent but staunch defence restricted the Blues to a 16-6 lead from halftime until Gilbert kicked his third penalty in the 79th minute to secure a losing bonus point.

“We gave it our best, we gave a lot of heart but we just couldn’t quite finish it off,” Highlanders captain Billy Harmon said.


The Highlanders, in eighth place coming into the final round, are one of five teams battling it out for the last two playoff spots.

Their final tally of 24 points means the Western Force (22), Fijian Drua (21) and Melbourne Rebels (21) all have an opportunity to overhaul them and move into the playoff spots with a win this weekend.


Brumbies will play a home Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final while the Melbourne Rebels’ season is over, after the Canberra side ended the regular season with a 33-17 win.


Three successive tries after falling behind 7-10 in the first half allowed the hosts to take control of the fixture at Canberra Stadium and consign the Rebels to a lowly 11th-placed finish.

The fourth-placed Brumbies will host the Hurricanes next Saturday, and they will need to find another gear if they’re to keep their season alive.

They leant on their forwards to snuff out the Rebels’ hopes, conceding just 17 points in what was their equal-best defensive display of the season to date.

Trailing by three points with half-an-hour gone, a yellow card for Melbourne centre Reece Hodge, for repeated fouling, provided the break the Brumbies needed.

They quickly powered over through hooker Connal McInerney before fullback Tom Wright and centre Ollie Sapsford scored early in the second half to put the game to bed.

Melbourne starlet Carter Gordon had earlier sliced through the Brumbies line to give the Rebels the lead but a mixed bag saw his loose pass to Joe Pincus returned 80 metres in a quick fashion for Wright’s try.

Brumbies wing Corey Toole had opened the scoring and again pushed his Wallabies case with his trademark power and speed getting him over the line, a delightful cut-out ball from Jack Debreczeni helping him through.

The Brumbies again struggled to retain possession from their own lineout, a common theme throughout the season that they are still looking to fix up heading into finals.

Brumbies lock Nick Frost appeared to hyper-extend his knee early in the second half under tackling pressure but remarkably played out the game despite hobbling at times.

It would have provided a scare for Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who has Frost in his Rugby World Cup plans after picking him in for the national side’s recent training camp.

Melbourne hooker Jordan Uelese copped a horrific accidental knee from Brumbies’ Cadeyrn Neville and was taken from the field via medicab in the first half.

Uelese lay motionless while receiving attention for a number of minutes before standing up and being carted off.

The Rebels end the campaign with an unimpressive 4-10 record, and will need to find a replacement for departing stalwart Hodge who is heading to French rugby.

Blues 16-9 Highlanders

The scorers:

For Blues:
Try: Tuipulotu
Con: Plummer
Pens: Plummer 3

For Highlanders:
Pens: Gilbert 3


Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Dalton Papalii (captain), 7 Anton Segner, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 James Tucker, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tuungafasi
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Rob Rush, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 AJ Lam

Highlanders: 15 Mitch Hunt, 14 Scott Gregory, 13 Matt Whaanga, 12 Sam Gilbert, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Billy Harmon (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Max Hicks, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 20 Sean Withy, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Connor Garden-Bachop, 23 Fetuli Paea

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Stu Curran & Jackson Henshaw
TMO: Shane McDermott

Brumbies 33-17 Melbourne Rebels

The scorers:

For Brumbies:
Tries: Muirhead, Sapsford, Wright, McInerney, Toole
Cons: Debreczeni 4

For Melbourne Rebels:
Tries: Wilkin, Gordon
Cons: Hodge 2
Pen: Hodge


Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Ollie Sapsford, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Tom Hooper, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Sefo Kautai, 2 Connal McInerney, 1 Fred Kaihea
Replacements: 16 Billy Pollard, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Rhys Van Nek, 19 Pete Samu, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Tamati Tua, 23 Jesse Mogg

Rebels: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Nick Jooste, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Brad Wilkin (captain), 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Josh Canham, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbon
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Isaac Aedo Kailea, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Trevor Hosea, 20 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Stacey Ili, 23 Joe Pincus

Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy & Matt Kellahan
TMO: Oli Kellett

Source: AAP

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