Old man Afoa sets Super record as Crusaders cruise
ROUND 14 WRAP: Prop John Afoa became Super Rugby’s oldest-ever player as his Crusaders team coasted past the Waratahs 42-18 on Saturday to remain second in the standings.
All Black Afoa played his part after a surprise late call-up as the Crusaders scored six tries to three in Christchurch.
It left their Australian opponents in sixth place, where they are guaranteed to remain ahead of the top-eight finals series regardless of the results in next week’s last round of regular season matches.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga was a try-scorer and did not miss a shot at goal in a 17-point haul as the defending champion Crusaders notched a ninth win from their last 10 games, after making a sluggish start to the season.
A highlight was the starting appearance of Afoa, who arrived from France two days earlier following a plea from coach Scott Robertson, who is without three injured All Blacks – Joe Moody, George Bower and Fletcher Newell – for the remainder of the season.
Former Blues tighthead Afoa had not played a Super Rugby match since 2011 and, at the age of 39 years and 223 days, became the competition’s oldest player.
After his 496th first-class game – more than half of which have been with European clubs Ulster, Gloucester and Bristol – Afoa said he jumped at the chance to play for the Crusaders.
“When the call came, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Crusaders or the Blues, I was just keen to come home and play in front of New Zealanders and my family,” he said.
“The last couple of days have been a bit of a whirlwind but it’s been amazing. I don’t have many moons left in my career, this is probably the last year of my career.”
David Havili was among the first-half try-scorers as the Crusaders pulled 28-8 clear, but the All Blacks midfielder limped off late in the game with a hamstring injury.
Adding to the team’s mounting medical list were knee injuries to loose forwards Cullen Grace and Christian Lio-Willie.
* In the late match on Saturday, the Chiefs cemented their spot at the top of the table with a 31-21 win over the Brumbies.
Missed tackles and butchered opportunities deep in attack cost the Brumbies a chance to roll the competition leaders in Canberra.
They were competitive early before 24 unanswered points saw the Chiefs blow the game apart.
The loss leaves the Brumbies fourth on the table and likely to remain in that spot with a win against Melbourne next weekend, setting them up for a home quarter-final against the Hurricanes in a fortnight.
And they might have to do it without captain Allan Alaalatoa, the Wallabies prop helped from the field in the second half with a calf injury in what would be a monster blow.
* Earlier on Saturday, last-placed Moana Pasifika narrowly missed securing their first win of the season, going down 46-47 to Fijian Drua in Lautoka.
Moana flyhalf Christian Leali’ifano missed an 80th-minute conversion attempt, to gift the Drua their fifth win and lift them to 10th on the ladder.
It leaves the Fijian side needing to beat the Queensland Reds next week to qualify for the top eight for the first time.
Both teams scored seven tries in a spectacular contest, with Drua centre Iosefo Masi bagging a hat-trick.
* Four tries from Mark Telea propelled the Blues to a 36-25 win over the Hurricanes, who have been left to rue a misfiring lineout and goal-kicking in poor conditions as the rain came down for a soggy night at Eden Park.
Centre Jordie Barrett missed four kicks at goal and reserve No.10 Brett Cameron added another, costing the visitors 16 points.
All the Saturday scores and scorers
Fijian Drua 47-46 Moana Pasifika
For Fijian Drua
Tries: Derenalagi, Masi 3, Droasese 2, Sau
Cons: Lomani 6
For Moana Pasifika
Tries: Havili 2, Lindenmuth, Aumua, Pole, Lealiifano, Moli
Cons: Lealiifano 4
Fijian Drua: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Selestino Ravutaumada, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Tela Tela, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Meli Derenalagi (captain), 7 Vilive Miramira, 6 Joseva Tamani, 5 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Haereiti Hetet.
Replacements: 16 Zuriel Togiatama, 17 Emosi Tuqiri, 18 Samuela Tawake, 19 Leone Rotuisolia, 20 Elia Canakaivata, 21 Peni Matawalu, 22 Kemu Valetini, 23 Michael Naitokani.
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 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Penitoa Finau, 5 Mike McKee, 4 Michael Curry, 3 Sosefo ‘Apikotoa, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth.
Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Abraham Pole, 18 Chris Apoua, 19 Mahonri Ngakuru, 20 Miracle Faiilagi, 21 Ereatara Enari, 22 Fine Inisi, 23 Jonah Mau’u.
Referee: Jordan Way
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Tevita Rokovereni
TMO: Brett Cronan
Crusaders 42-18 Waratahs
For the Crusaders
Tries: Havili, Taylor, Drummond, Burke, Mo’unga, Havili
Cons: Mo’unga 6
For the Waratahs
Tries: Gordon, Pietsch, Leatigaga
Crusaders: 15 Fergus Burke, 14 Dallas McLeod, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Christian Lio-Willie, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Tamaiti Williams, 2 Codie Taylor (captain), 1 Kershawl Sykes-Martin.
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Seb Cader, 18 Reuben O’Neill, 19 Zach Gallagher, 20 Sione Havili Talitui, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Chay Fiahki, 23 Will Gualter.
Waratahs: 15 Max Jorgensen, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Joey Walton, 12 Mosese Tuipulotu, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Langi Gleeson, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Hugh Sinclair, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Te Tera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Mahe Vailanu, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Tom Lambert, 19 Ned Hanigan, 20 Will Harris, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Harry Wilson.
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin, Fraser Hannon
TMO: Chris Hart
Blues 36-25 Hurricanes
For the Blues
Tries: Telea 4, Sotutu, Ioane
Cons: Plummer 2, Perofeta
For the Hurricanes
Tries: Roigard, Proctor, Naholo 2
Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Cameron Suafoa, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tuungafasi
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 James Tucker, 20 Anton Segner, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 AJ Lam/Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens
Hurricanes: 15 Josh Moorby, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Aidan Morgan, 9 Cam Roigard, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Caleb Delany, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Xavier Numia
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Justin Sangster, 20 Brayden Iose, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Salesi Rayasi
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Reuben Keane, Stu Curran
TMO: Shane McDermott
Brumbies 21-31 Chiefs
For the Brumbies
Tries: Ikitau, Toole, Samu
Cons: Lolesio, Debreczeni 2
For the Chiefs
Tries: Jacobson, Ioane, Ratima, Stevenson
Cons: McKenzie 4
Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan (co-captain), 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Tom Hooper, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (co-captain), 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Klayton Thorn, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Ollie Sapsford
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Laghlan McWhannell, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 George Dyer, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 John Ryan, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Samipeni Finau, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Daniel Rona, 23 Shaun Stevenson
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy, Matt Kellahan
TMO: James Leckie