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Reds' home final hopes dashed, 'Saders lose again

SATURDAY WRAP: Suva-born Suliasi Vunivalu was sent off in a Super Rugby homecoming to forget on Saturday as the Reds lost 19-28 to the Fijian Drua.

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Reds wing Vunivalu was shown two yellow cards – both for foot-tripping – resulting in a red card early in the second half that left the visitors one man down for much of the second half in heat-sapping conditions.

Reds captain Liam Wright rued his team’s slow start.

“We got punched in the face a bit, early. Our contact wasn’t good enough, we fell off tackles and Fiji ran hard, especially in front of their home crowd,” he said.

“We found a way back into that game, but ill-discipline killed a lot of the opportunities we were creating.”

The eighth-placed Drua scored three tries to two in notching a fifth win from six home matches this season and took a major stride towards reaching the playoffs for a second straight season.

Drua captain Tevita Ikanivere crossed twice while the home side were also awarded an early penalty try, conceded by Vunivalu when he tripped Kitione Salawa as the Drua flank closed on the try-line.

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Hooker Ikanivere scored soon afterward, but the Suva crowd was silenced when Reds wing Floyd Aubrey and flyhalf Lawson Creighton responded with tries for the Reds as they trimmed Drua’s lead to 15-14 at halftime.

The home side – particularly adept at turning over Reds ruck ball – stayed in front throughout the second half, aided by Vunivalu’s trip on opposite number Selestino Ravutaumada during an attack.

The Reds remain fifth in the table, but defeat in Suva dented their hopes of a top-four finish and a home quarterfinal with two rounds remaining in the regular season.

The Drua hope to snap their winless record on the road this season when they face the Highlanders in Dunedin next weekend.

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*The Brumbies ended a 15-year winless streak against the Crusaders on Saturday, posting a dramatic 31-24 win that leaves the defending champions with little hope of reaching the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs.

A penalty try after the full-time hooter consigned the Crusaders to a record 10th defeat of the season, leaving them with only a small mathematical chance of playing in next month’s quarter-finals.

Trailing 7-17 at halftime, the 13-time champions from Christchurch played some of their best rugby of a disjointed campaign to level the scores entering the final five minutes.

However, an 80th-minute penalty shot at goal from Brumbies flyhalf Noah Lolesio struck an upright before Crusaders lock Quinten Strange illegally batted the ball over the deadball line.

Referee Ben O’Keeffe deemed a Brumbies’ try would probably have been scored without Strange’s foul play, awarding a penalty try which was disputed by some of the Crusaders players.

Captain Codie Taylor couldn’t hide his frustration.

“We gave ourselves a crack but it’s a tough way to finish a game like that,” Taylor said.

“I’m proud of the boys. There’s a lot of effort out there but we can’t quite string it together.”

Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa expressed relief after a 10th win left them in third place with two rounds remaining in the regular season.

He said they were determined to beat the Crusaders for the first time since 2009.

“That was something that was spoken about a few times during the week,” he said.

“It’s special because we still know they’re a quality side.”

The Crusaders boasted a dominant scrum but a malfunctioning lineout and a propensity to throw loose passes once again let them down.

Brumbies fullback Tom Wright was a constant threat and scored two of their four tries while Crusaders winger Sevu Reece crossed for his 12th try of the season, three more than any other player in the competition.

All Saturday’s scores and scorers:

Fijian Drua 28-19 Reds

Scorers:

For Drua:
Tries: Ikanivere 2, Penalty
Cons: Ravula
Pens: Ravula 2, Valetini

For Reds:
Tries: Aubrey, Creighton, Blake
Cons: Creighton 2

Teams:

Drua: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Selestino Ravutaumada, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Waqa Nalaga, 11 Epeli Momo, 10 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 9 Simione Kuruvoli, 8 Elia Canakaivata, 7 Kitione Salawa, 6 Etonia Waqa, 5 Isoa Nasilasila, 4 Mesake Vocevoce, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Jone Koroiduadua.
Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Emosi Tuqiri, 18 Samu Tawake, 19 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 20 Vilive Miramira, 21 Peni Matawalu, 22 Kemu Valetini, 23 Taniela Rakuro.

Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Taj Annan, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Floyd Aubrey, 10 Lawson Creighton, 9 Tate McDemortt, 8 John Bryant, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright, 5 Cormac Daly, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Zane Nonggorr, 2 Josh Nasser, 1 Peni Ravai.
Replacements: 16 George Blake, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Seru Uru, 20 Joe Brial, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 James O’Connor, 23 Tim Ryan.

Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Matt Kellahan; Jeremy Markey
TMO: Brett Cronan

Brumbies 31-24 Crusaders

Scorers:

For Brumbies:
Tries: Muirhead, Wright 2, Valetini, Penalty
Cons: Lolesio 2

For Crusaders:
Tries: McNicholl, Reece, Hotham
Cons: Burke 3
Pens: Fihaki

Teams:

Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Ollie Sapsford, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Nick Frost, 5 Caderyn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Liam Bowron, 17 Rhys van Nek, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Tom Hooper, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Ben O’Donnell.

Crusaders: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Chay Fihaki, 13 Jone Rava, 12 David Havili, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Fergus Burke, 9 Noah Hotham, 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Antonio Shalfoon, 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 George Bell, 17 George Bower, 18 Seb Calder, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Dominic Gardner, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Macca Springer.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Stu Curran; Jackson Henshaw
TMO: Glenn Newman

Blues 47-13 Highlanders

Scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Tu’ungafasi, Forbes, Eklund 2, Banks, Funaki, Clarke
Cons: Plummer 6

For Highlanders:
Tries: Tavatavanawai
Cons: Millar
Pens: Millar 2

Teams:

Blues: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Bryce Heem, 12 Corey Evans, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papali’i (captain), 6 Adrian Choat, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Laghlan McWhannell, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Mason Tupaea, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Josh Beehre, 20 Cameron Suafoa, 21 Taufa Funaki, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Kade Banks

Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Jake Te Hiwi, 11 Martín Bogado, 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 Stodartt, 21 James Arscott, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Finn Hurley.

Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Dan Waenga; Mike Winter
TMO: Richard Kelly

 

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