The Super Rugby playoffs have been decided with the Chiefs tackling the Crusaders in Super Rugby Aotearoa while the Brumbies and Western Force will go head to head to see who will face the Reds in the final of Super Rugby Australia.
We wrap up the weekend's action and select our team of the week.
The Hurricanes appeared set to clinch just their second win of the season, only to be beaten by a last-gasp penalty on Friday. Damian McKenzie landed a penalty after the final siren sounded to secure the Chiefs a thrilling 26-24 win over the Hurricanes on Friday.
Full-back McKenzie was on target with the match-winning kick in the 83rd minute of a see-saw Super Rugby Aotearoa clash that seemed set to yield an upset result. Asafo Aumua's 68th-minute try, which was converted by Jordie Barrett, had the struggling Hurricanes on course for just their second victory of the 2021 season. James Blackwell and Billy Proctor also touched down for the visitors - the former doing so in the opening minute of proceedings - as the team stuck at the bottom of the standings gave their second-placed opponents a serious scare.
Chiefs managed two tries themselves through Pita-Gus Sowakula and Bryn Gatland, but it was McKenzie's trusty boot that proved crucial in deciding the outcome. The New Zealand international landed both conversion attempts as well as four penalties, the last of which dashed Hurricanes' hopes in dramatic fashion.
Western Force 30-27 Reds
A lifting tackle saw Force centre Tevita Kurindrani shown a yellow card in the opening stages of the match and Queensland quickly capitalised through Hunter Paisami. In his return from a calf complaint, the Wallaby outside centre steamed onto a Hamish Stewart short ball before bulldozing his way through four Force defenders to open the scoring for the Reds. O’Connor made no mistake with the conversion to open up a 7-nil lead. The home side hit back quickly courtesy of a Jordan Olowofela intercept try, with
Domingo Miotti’s conversion levelling the scores at 7-all.
Queensland reclaimed their lead minutes later thanks to a stunning Taniela Tupou effort, the prop bulldozing his way through seven defenders to streak over 20-metres and score his side’s second try of the night. O’Connor again converted to put the score out to 14-7 at the 12-minute mark. Toni Pulu was yellow carded in the 22nd minute to again reduce the Force to 14-men and Queensland again made the most of their advantage, this time through Filipo Daugunu. The flying winger scored off a well-worked scrum play, Tate McDermott sending him flying through a gap with a deft inside-ball off his hip. O’Connor’s third conversion made the score 21-7.
A Miotti penalty and Feleti Kaitu'u try cut the home side’s deficit to six-points late in the opening half, as the Force fought back to trail by six-points at the break. Jordan Petaia became the third player of the night to be yellow carded early in the second stanza and the Force soon made the most of their advantage through Olowofela who crossed for his second try out wide. Miotti missed the conversion chance, as Queensland held onto a narrow 21-20 lead at the 48-minute mark. A 45-metre O’Connor penalty then stretched the Reds’ lead to 24-20, but Miotti quickly responded with a three-pointer of his own to again bring the Force within one-point. Jeremy Thrush was shown a yellow card in the 68th minute for taking out scrumhalf Kalani Thomas, with O’Connor slotting the ensuing penalty goal to extend the Queensland advantage to 27-23.
A third try to Olowofela saw the Force claim their first lead of the match in the 75th minute, with Miotti’s conversion giving his side a 30-27 lead in the final minutes. Queensland had the opportunity to snatch victory in the last minutes of the game, but the hosts were able to hold on to seal the first finals appearance in their club’s history.
Waratahs 25-36 Rebels
Saturday's defeat left the Waratahs with a 0-8 record in Super Rugby AU this season. The Waratahs failed to avoid the ignominy of a winless Super Rugby AU campaign as they fell to a 36-25 loss to the Rebels.
A miserable 0-8 record was confirmed on Saturday as the Tahs were beaten by the Australian conference's second-bottom side, despite the Rebels having two men sent off in Sydney. It took just 33 seconds for the hosts to get that sinking feeling as Stacey Ili touched down after collecting Matt Toomua's precise cross-field kick.
To their credit, the Tahs promptly hit back with a pair of Ben Donaldson penalties to suggest a close contest may be on the cards. Even after Michael Wells' converted try restored some comfort for the Rebels, the dismissal of Isi Naisarani for a high tackle handed the home side fresh impetus.
Mark Nawaqanitawase and Jack Maddocks both dotted down to capitalise, with the Rebels clinging to a 21-18 half-time lead after a brace of Toomua three-pointers. The visitors made light of their numerical disadvantage, Rob Leota diving over off the back of a maul, although Carlo Tizzano was quick to respond with a try of his own.
That proved to be the Tahs' last score, though, and the Rebels added gloss through Toomua's penalty and a late Matt Gibbon try. There was still time for Pone Fa'amausili to see red for a driving his shoulder into the head of Max Douglas, but the 13 men saw out the remainder of the game without further incident.
Crusaders 26-6 Blues
Will Jordan scored a double and Codie Taylor got another as the Crusaders confirmed top spot and a home final. The Crusaders will host the 2021 Super Rugby Aotaeroa final against the Chiefs after returning to winning ways with a 29-6 victory over the Blues on Sunday in Christchurch.
The 2020 Super Rugby Aotaeroa champions scored four tries to the Blues' none, with two from Will Jordan including a fine solo run to open the scoring in the seventh minute. Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor also crossed for the Canterbury side who led 12-0 at the interval and never looked back. Taylor remains the leading try scorer this season, getting his seventh of 2021 on the hour when the Crusaders maul forced their way over following a line-out.
The result also means that the Blues can no longer mathematically make for the top two thus will not feature in the decider despite having a game in hand against the Chiefs in Round 10, having collected no points on Sunday. The Blues have lost four of their past five matches, fading from contention after a promising 2-0 start.
The Crusaders had gone down 26-25 to the Chiefs in Round Eight, putting at jeopardy their hopes of hosting the Final but Sunday's result ended any doubts. Scott Robertson's side have been top of the table since Round Two, having started the 2021 season with five straight wins.
Team of the Week
15. Damian McKenzie - Chiefs
14. Jordan Olowofela - Western Force
13. Anton Liefert-Brown - Chiefs
12. Kyle Godwin - Western Force
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo - Chiefs
10. Richie Mo’unga- Crusaders
9. Tomas Cubelli - Western Force
8. Hoskins Sotutu- Blues
7. Lachlan Boshier - Chiefs
6. Michael Wells - Melbourne Rebels
5. Angus Scott-Young - Reds
4. Scott Barrett - Crusaders
3. Taniela Tupou - Reds
2. Codie Taylor - Crusaders
1. Angus Bell - Waratahs