Super Rugby Wrap: Moana Pasifika flip playoffs script on its head with Brumbies upset

Few saw Moana Pasifika’s brilliant win against the Brumbies coming, and it has the potential to make the Crusaders’ pathway to the final significantly more difficult.

The Blues will host the Highlanders or Force next week, the Crusaders will play the Reds, the Chiefs will welcome the Waratahs, and the Hurricanes will travel to Canberra to take on the Brumbies.

That picture would have been different had the Brumbies beaten Moana Pasifika and locked in third place on the ladder, and the upshot is that the Crusaders will play the Chiefs in one semifinal if both win next weekend, instead of facing the winner of the Brumbies v Waratahs quarterfinal that had looked likely.

The Chiefs have already won in Christchurch this year, and with Brodie Retallick returning to the fray against the Fijian Drua on Saturday, they clearly pose a risk to any side.

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The Crusaders, therefore, will be breathing a sigh of relief that they still have the services of Pablo Matera.

The Pumas flanker was shown a yellow card for a dangerous lifting tackle on Saturday, but will face no further sanction from Sanzaar and is free to play on Friday against the Reds on Friday.

Given that Highlanders No 10 Sam Gilbert was whacked with a five-week ban that had a starting point of 10 weeks for a similar incident involving Michael Hooper, Matera’s availability will come as a major boost.

Moana Pasifika players celebrate Lotu Inisi's try against the Brumbies.

Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

Moana Pasifika players celebrate Lotu Inisi’s try against the Brumbies.

TJ Perenara loses a fight he could never win

The sight of TJ Perenara being marched 10 meters for backchat in the Hurricanes’ loss to the Force won’t do his All Blacks chances any good.

The Hurricanes lost some 50-50s at the breakdown, but referee Angus Gardner is one of the best in the business and Perenara had already been warned before the Australian whistleblower lost patience with him.

Discipline has to be a major consideration for the All Blacks this year, especially when it comes to the Bledisloe series.

It’s been evident in recent weeks that the Australians think they can get under the skin of New Zealand sides, with Brumbies No 9 Nic White the biggest pest in the southern hemisphere.

Romano proves a point

Ever since their collapse in the final 10 minutes against the Hurricanes in their season-opener, Leon MacDonald’s men have simply refused to lose.

Zarn Sullivan’s matchwinning drop goal against the Waratahs on Saturday was a beauty, but there was serious grit throughout the performance.

Even when they were without two forwards in the first half due to yellow cards the scrum did the business, and their desperation levels on defense inside their own 22 was reminiscent of the Chiefs’ title-winning sides in 2012-13.

Meanwhile, Luke Romano is a fair shout to be considered signing of the season. The 36-year-old, who was arguably the most dominant lock in last season’s NPC for Canterbury, remains a damaging ball carrier who is sending a message to the Crusaders every time he thunders his way over the gainline.

Round 15 results

At Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch: Crusaders 28 (Fergus Burke try 11min, Will Jordan try 15min, Brodie McAlister try 37min, Tom Christie 67min; Burke 4 con) Queensland Reds 15 (Richie Asiata try 56m, Lawson Creighton try 71min; con, pen) HT: 21-3

Yellow card: Pablo Matera 55min

At Churchill Park, Lautoka: Chiefs 35 (Angus Ta’avao try 14min, Bryn Gatland try 21min, Emoni Narawa tries 40min, 53min, penalty try 66min; Bryn Gatland 4 con) Fijian Drua 34 (Apisalome Vota tries 31min, 75min, Kalaveti Ravouvou try 70min, Timoci Sauvoli try 79min; Teti Tela 4 con, 2 pen). HT: 21-7.

At Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland: Moana Pasifika 32 (William Havili try 21min, Joe Apikotoa try 27min, penalty try 40min, Lotu Inisi try 76min; Christian Leali’ifano 2 con, 2 pen) Brumbies 22 (Connal McInerney try 13min, Lachlan Lonergan try 57min, Pete Samu try 83min; Noah Lolesio 2 con, drop goal). HT: 19-7.

Red card: Sekope Kepu (Moana Pasifika) 11min

Yellow cards: Connal McInerney (Brumbies) 39min, Jahrome Brown (Brumbies) 41min (first half)

At Leichhardt Oval, Sydney: Blues 20 (Cameron Suafoa try 66min, Luke Romano try 74min; Jock McKenzie pen, con; Zarn Sullivan dg, con), Waratahs 17 (Mark Nawaqanitawase 2 tries 51min, 56min; Taine Edmed pen, 2 con). HT: 3-0.

Yellow cards: Adrian Choat (Blues) 28min, Akira Ioane (Blues) 29min.

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