UPDATE: Moana Pasifika spoil Hooper's farewell party
SUPER RUGBY WRAP: The Waratahs will limp into the Super Rugby Pacific play-offs on the back of a shock 24-33 loss to wooden spooners Moana Pasifika in Sydney.
The previously winless Pasifika crashed Michael Hooper’s farewell party in stunning fashion with a five-tries-to-four boilover victory on Saturday.
A crowd of almost 20 000 fans left at Sydney Stadium disappointed and disbelieving having expected a stylish send-off for the former Wallabies captain.
Playing his last-ever home game for the Waratahs, Hooper instead featured in one of the Waratahs’ most humiliating defeats.
Already certain to finish sixth and playing the Blues in next week’s quarterfinals, the match was a dead rubber.
But the lacklustre loss was still hardly the confidence-boosting performance the Waratahs would have been looking for ahead of a treacherous sudden-death trip to Auckland.
Apart from no Australian team having ever won a finals match across the Tasman, Waratahs’ record against the Blues in New Zealand makes for grim reading.
The ‘Tahs have won only once at Eden Park in 15 Super Rugby meetings since 1998, they leak an average of 35 points against the Blues in NZ and are riding an eight-match losing streak against the Auckland outfit stretching back to 2015.
Worst of all, the Waratahs endured their heaviest-ever defeat to the Blues, 55-21, only last month at Eden Park, albeit with several Wallabies being rested from that match.
Now Darren Coleman’s side have only a six-day turnaround before trying to pull off somewhat of a rugby miracle on Friday.
Few players did their Wallabies prospects any good in the stinker, not least Ben Donaldson, one of the slew of hopefuls vying for the hotly-contested flyhalf role.
In one horror three-minute spell, Donaldson failed to find touch from a penalty, kicked out on the full and was penalised for not rolling away from a ruck in the lead-up to Moana’s third try.
But he was far from alone in putting in a shocker on finals week eve.
Moana raced to a 21-7 lead half an hour into the contest with two tries to wing Timoci Tavatavanawai and another to flank Miracle Faiilagi.
Ned Hanigan’s reply in the shadows of halftime, after Mark Nawaqanitawase’s long-range opening try in the fourth minute, looked to have revived the Waratahs’ fortunes.
But the Pacific Islanders’ fourth try, to former Brumbies and Wallabies playmaker Christian Leali’ifano, on the hour mark, followed by a second Faiilagi five-pointer sealed the Waratahs’ fate.
Hooper’s sole consolation was a try after the full-time siren, his 27th for the Waratahs – and last in Sydney – in his 141st game for the club.
*Western Force’s dreams of a first Super Rugby Pacific finals have been shattered in a 19-43 loss to the table-topping Chiefs in a do-or-die clash.
The Chiefs rested plenty of stars on Saturday, making 11 changes to the side that beat the Brumbies in the previous round to secure top spot.
But the depth and class of the New Zealand side shone through as they ended the Force’s unbeaten home run of six games.
They were well drilled, had power across the park and bullied the Force, effectively sealing the win with four first-half tries.
They added two more after the break with the Force crossing three times.
Force’s fate was in their own hands after earlier results opened the door to a play-off berth but coach Simon Cron was forced to make two late changes.
He brought in Brazilian prop Wilton Rebolo – who has been playing club rugby in Perth – for his Super debut, replacing Argentine international Santiago Medrano, while wing Toni Pulu came off the bench to replace Zack Kibirige.
The Force needed a fast start but their kicking game gave the Chiefs too many counter-attack options.
The Chiefs carried powerfully across the park and continually bent the Force line as the home side missed too many tackles.
The Force struggled to break the Chiefs defensive superiority and they dominated the opening salvos before second row Laghlan McWhannell crashed over inside eight minutes, with the try converted by Rameka Poihipi.
Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson sliced the defence open before Poihipi sent a pin-point kick to the corner for Anton Leinert-Brown for their second.
Soon after Liam Coombes-Fabling picked off a Hamish Stewart pass to race home from 60 metres.
The Chiefs were in control defensively but the Force finally had a lengthy spell on their line and Carlo Tizzano squirmed over. Max Burey added the extras.
Their joy was short-lived when Samipeni Finau strolled through poor defence for the Chiefs’ fourth try, converted, and they finished the first-half comfortably with a Poihipi penalty.
There was no let up for the Force after the break and scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi quickly added more pain with the Chiefs’ fifth.
Cron made early changes from the bench and Tim Anstee won the race to a chip behind to score.
But the Chiefs were relentless and Pita Gus Sowakula went over from the back of a scrum.
Burey then produced a brilliant piece of individual skill, kicking ahead and somehow keeping it infield before winning the chase.
*The Hurricanes rallied from 16 points down to shock the Crusaders 27-26 in Wellington on Saturday.
It was a classic New Zealand derby with both teams scoring four tries, respectively.
The win is a fitting farewell for Hurricanes legend Dane Coles, who will retire at the end of the season.
The Crusaders dominated the first half against the Hurricanes, scoring tries through Leicester Fainga’anuku – his 11th of the season – hooker Codie Taylor and centre Braydon Ennor.
After scoring just before halftime, the Hurricanes trailed 8-19 at the break.
The match turned on its head in the second half which the Hurricanes played mostly in the Crusaders’ half.
Tries to scrumhalf Cam Roigard, fullback Josh Moorby and backrow Brayden Iose carried the Hurricanes to a 27-19 lead before the Crusaders finished with a try to Chay Fihaki after the full-time siren.
*The Queensland Reds face a nervous wait after the Fijian Drua swallowed them up in a 41-17 win that secured a Super Rugby Pacific feel-good story with a finals berth in just their second season.
The Drua dominated the second half after scores were locked 17-17 at the break, the wheels falling off for a Reds team now relying on other results to play finals.
Victory at a wet Suva Stadium lifted Mick Byrne’s men above four teams, including the Reds, into seventh to assure them a quarterfinal berth.
And it bumped the Reds back to eighth – the Western Force now able to shunt them out of the finals picture and book their berth with a win over the Chiefs in Perth later on Saturday.
Drua’s win was a fifth from six home games this season and came about in emphatic fashion, the hosts producing points from all corners to stun the helpless Reds.
A brilliant clearing kick and better chase from Selestino Ravutaumada set the tone, his charge down of Filipo Daugunu’s kick creating his own try.
The Reds responded with set-piece tries to Ryan Smith and Fraser McReight but the Drua scored twice more in the half, Vilive Miramira benefiting from a cheeky Iosefo Masi chip that evaded a diving Tate McDermott.
The Reds were never in the fight after the break, McReight sin-binned after repeat infringements and the Drua slowly turned the screws.
The Reds’ usually reliable line-out failed them, a throw on their own tryline over the back falling for hooker Tevita Ikanivere who scored the simplest of tries.
A runaway Joseva Tamani try only heightened the frenzied home crowd with seven minutes to go as the wheels fell off in what could be coach Brad Thorn’s final game in charge.
Fijian Drua 41-17 Queensland Reds
For Fijian Drua:
Tries: Tamani, Ikanivere, Doge, Miramira, Ravouvou, Ravutaumada.
Cons: Valetini, Lomani 2, Muntz
For Queensland Reds:
Tries: McReight, Smith
Cons: O’Connor 2
Fijian Drua: 15 Selestino Ravutaumada, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Teti Tela, 11 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 10 Caleb Muntz, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Meli Derenalagi (captain), 7 Vilive Miramira, 6 Joseva Tamani, 5 Leone Rotuisolia, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Haereiti Hetet
Replacements: 16 Mesu Dolokoto, 17 Meli Tuni, 18 Samuela Tawake, 19 Etonia Waqa, 20 Elia Canakaivata, 21 Peni Matawalu, 22 Kemu Valetini, 23 Michael Naitokani
Queensland Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott (captain), 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Seru Uru, 5 Ryan Smith, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Zane Nonggorr, 2 Matt Faessler, 1 Peni Ravai
Replacements: 16 Richie Asiata, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Lopeti Faifua, 20 Jake Upfield, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Tom Lynagh, 23 Lawson Creighton
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Dan Waenga & Mike Winter
TMO: Richard Kelly
Hurricanes 27-26 Crusaders
Tries: Proctor, Roigard, Moorby , Iose
Cons: Cameron 2
Tries: Fainga’anuku, Taylor, Ennor, Fihaki
Cons: Mo’unga 3
Hurricanes: 15 Josh Moorby, 14 Daniel Sinkinson, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Cam Roigard, 8 Ardie Savea (Captain), 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Devan Flanders, 5 Caleb Delany, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tevita Mafileo
Replacements: 16 Jacob Devery, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Justin Sangster, 20 Brayden Iose, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ruben Love, 23 Bailyn Sullivan
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Dallas McLeod, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Scott Barrett (Captain), 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 John Afoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tamaiti Williams
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Kershawl-Sykes-Martin, 18 Reuben O’Neill, 19 Zach Gallagher, 20 Sione Havili Talitui, 21 Louie Chapman, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Chay Fihaki
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: James Doleman & Marcus Playle
TMO: Glenn Newman
Waratahs 33-24 Moana Pasifika
Tries: Hooper, Latu, Hanigan, Nawaqanitawase
Cons: Donaldson 2
For Moana Pasifika
Tries: Faiilagi, Leali’ifano, Tavatavanawai, Faiilagi, Tavatavanawai
Cons: Leali’ifano 4
Waratahs: 15 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Joey Walton, 12 Mosese Tuipulotu, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Harrison Goddard, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Michael Hooper (Captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Hugh Sinclair, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Nephi Leatigaga
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Lambert, 18 Archer Holtz, 19 Charlie Gamble, 20 Langi Gleeson, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Harry Wilson
Moana Pasifika: 15 William Havili, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Jonathan Taumateine, 8 Solomone Funaki (Captain), 7 Penitoa Finau, 6 Miracle Faiilagi, 5 Samuel Slade, 4 Michael Curry, 3 Sosefo Apikotoa, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Abraham Pole
Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Chris Apoua, 19 Mike McKee, 20 Alamanda Motuga, 21 Ereatara Enari, 22 Lincoln McClutchie, 23 Fine Inisi
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant Referees: Jordan Way & Matt Kellahan
TMO: James Leckie
Western Force 19-43 Chiefs
For Western Force:
Tries: Burey, Anstee, Tizzano
Cons: Burey 2
Tries: Gus, Toiroa, Finau, Coombes-Fabling, Lienert-Brown, McWhannell
Cons: Poihipi 5
Western Force: 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Max Burey, 9 Gareth Simpson, 8 Rahboni Vosayaco, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Michael Wells (captain), 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Jeremy Williams, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Angus Warner
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Marley Pearce, 18 Siosifa Amone, 19 Felix Kalapu, 20 Tim Anstee, 21 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 22 George Poolman, 23 Toni Pulu
Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Liam Coombes-Fabling, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Rameka Pohipi, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Samipeni Finau, 7 Simon Parker, 6 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Laghlan McWhannell, 3 John Ryan, 2 Tyrone Thompson, 1 Ollie Norris
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Jared Proffit, 18 Atunaisa Moli, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Lalomilo Lalomilo
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Reuben Keane & Jordan Kaminski
TMO: Brett Cronan