The Waratahs claimed a notable first win in three years when beating the Crusaders 24-21 in Sydney while the Brumbies maintained their second place in the competition with their 42-25 win over the Hurricanes in Canberra.
In Perth, the Force came within an ace of beating the Blues, only to go down 18-22 and leave the Blues at the head of the ladder by one point from the Brumbies.
Results from the weekend were:
Reds 25 Chiefs 27
A two-point win allowed the Chiefs to slip ahead of the Reds on points differential to claim a top four berth in Brisbane on Friday in a game that saw both sides on the end of sin-binnings. The Chiefs didn't get in front in the first half, and scored their first try six minutes into injury time when halfback Cortez Ratima got the ball from No8 Pita Gus Sowakula from a peeling scrum just short of the goal-line. Hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho made the Reds pay for a conceded lineout when scoring. Sowakula put his power to use driving over from close quarters to score after wing Quinn Tupaea's tackle on flanker Fraser McReight at the other end of the field created an opportunity for the Chiefs to counter. However, the Reds, who lost powerful prop Taniela Tupou to a first-half- calf injury, weren't done and a superb break by halfback Tate McDermott saw wing Josh Flook score, while second five-eighths Hunter Paisami got the Reds within striking distance with another try. Defending a determined Reds finish was made more difficult when substitute loosie Samipeni Finau was red-carded for a high shot on McReight but the Chiefs managed to hold their ground.
Reds 25 (Harry Wilson, Josh Flook, Hunter Paisami tries; Lawson Creighton 2 con, 2 pen) Chiefs 27 (Cortez Ratima, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Pita Gus Sowakula tries; Bryn Gatland 3 con, 2 pen). HT: 13-13
Western Force 18 Blues 22
Goal-kicking still counts. That was the harsh lesson for a game Force side that took the Blues beyond the edges, with 5 min 46 sec of injury time, and 27 phases, before a goal-line turnover meant the visitors could scrape out of their scoreless second-half with a win. It was also a tough reminder for the competition leaders that they can under-estimate no side. Up at halftime after scoring 22 unanswered points to eight, including a try to wing Manasa Mataele, the Blues had scored through lock Sam Darry, soon after he returned from the sin-bin, returning blindside flanker Akira Ioane and wing AJ Lam, who took a lovely back-of-the-hand offload from second five-eighths Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. But, in the second half, the Blues failed to take their chances, especially when the Force were reduced to 14 and they showed power close to the line as lock Jeremy Thrush and prop Bo Abra drove through breakdowns to score. The Blues had only 38 per cent of possession and had to make 214 tackles (22 of them to Dalton Papalii and 21 to Anton Segner) to 119, won only 71 rucks to 134 for the Force and conceded five lineouts.
Western Force 18 (Manasa Mataele, Jeremy Thrush, Bo Abra tries; Bayley Kuenzle pen) Blues 22 (Sam Darry, Akira Ioane, AJ Lam tries; Beauden Barrett 2 con, pen). HT: 8-22
Fijian Drua 24 Highlanders 27
The Drua set their home crowd alight with a well-taken opening try with left wing Vinaya Habosi, who made 156m during the game, showing his speed before in-passing to supporting halfback Frank Lomani to run in beneath the posts. The Highlanders responded with wing Sam Gilbert crossing out wide in the eighth minute. But just how lethal the Drua can be was seen from a turnover on their 22m line. The ball was shifted to Habosi who rounded his marker then unleashed his speed to run away more than 80m to score. First five-eighths Teti Tela judged a grubber kick to the Highlanders' in-goal perfectly for second five-eighths Kalaveti Ravouvou to win the race to the touchdown. But No8 Mikaele Tu'u powered his way through the Fijian defence line to score. The high-scoring first-half became more of a slug-fest in the second with the Drua unable to add to their score. It was the Highlanders who applied their lineout drive at the three-quarter mark to finally get in front through replacement hooker Rhys Marshall's try.
Fijian Drua 24 (Frank Lomani, Vinaya Habosi, Kalaveti Ravouvou tries; Teti Tela 3 con, pen) Highlanders 27 (Sam Gilbert, Mikaele Tu'u, Rhys Marshall tries; Mitch Hunt 3 con, 2 pen). HT: 24-17
Waratahs 24 Crusaders 21
Winning key moments boosted the Waratahs. They won 16 offloads to six, beat 23 defenders to 16 while flankers Charlie Gamble (17) and Michael Hooper (16) managed game-high tackle counts in a game where the set-piece plays were shared. Emerging Waratahs first five-eighths Tane Edmed ran hard at the line in the second minute, took the tackles and set up quick ball which saw blindside wing Dylan Pietsch hit the ball from the short-side at speed to split the defence and score under the posts. Eight minutes later on the opposite flank, another short side break, this time by centre Izaia Perese and with a penalty goal from Edmed, the Waratahs went to the break 17-0 up. Six minutes into the second half an illegal entry to a driving maul by No8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco resulted in a penalty try to the Crusaders. More points followed when replacement flanker Sione Havili went to the line, was rolled on his back, but managed to ground the ball over the line for the try. Trailing by three, the Crusaders lost Hamish Dalzell for a high shot on Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper to a red card with 14 minutes to play. The home team struck immediately with a penalty try awarded when flanker Pablo Matera collapsed the maul, and when yellow-carded the Crusaders were reduced to 13. But that didn't stop them, and prop Fraser Newell scored with 6½ minutes left.
Waratahs 24 (Dylan Pietsch, Mark Nawaqanitawase tries; Penalty try; Tane Edmed 2 con, pen) Crusaders 21 (Sione Havili, Fletcher Newell tries; Penalty try; Fergus Burke con; Simon Hickey con). HT: 17-0
Rebels 26 Moana Pasifika 22
It was a game of lost opportunities for Moana Pasifika. They carried for 680 metres to 329, carried 142 to 64 times, beat 36 defenders to nine, won rucks 103-44 and made 16 offloads to three, yet ended up beaten. A fast-breaking lineout maul created the chance for Moana Pasifika flanker Alamanda Motuga to score the opening try. The Rebels responded in kind with consecutive tries to hooker James Hanson. Pick and go play on the Rebels' line saw prop Abraham Pole drive through to claim the lead for the first time. Not managing to control a turnover rip, Moana Pasifika saw the Rebels move the ball for fullback Reece Hodge to run through a gap to score. They extended the lead when moving the ball from their line with halfback Joe Powell breaking clear, finding Hodge inside. He headed back out and threw a long ball which bounced for wing Andrew Kelleway to get over in the corner. Replacement five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie went close, the ball being knocked out of his hands as he dived for the try. However, Moana Pasifika did get across when replacement back Timoci Tavatavanawai scored three minutes from the end. The game had a frustrating end for Moana Pasifika after a red card to Rebel second five-eighths Ray Nu'u was sent off for a high shot on first five-eighths Christian Leali'ifano. But McClutchie's injury-time penalty kick for touch, missed and the home team were able to kick the ball out to save the day.
Rebels 26 (James Hanson 2, Reece Hodge, Andrew Kelleway tries; Hodge 3 con) Moana Pasifika 22 (Alamanda Motuga, Abraham Pole, Timoci Tavatavanawai tries; Christian Leali'ifano con, 2 pen). HT: 14-10
Brumbies 42 Hurricanes 25
The Hurricanes played enough rugby, but lacked the required accuracy to pressure the home side. Forced to make 155 tackles to 101 by the Hurricanes, the Brumbies also won only 70 rucks compared to 95 by the visitors. Yet, it was the Brumbies who showed greater ball security, and certainty, close to the line. For all that, it was flanker Rob Valentini who set the spark under his side in scoring the first try by kicking ahead and winning a 35m race to the touch down. Hurricanes wing Salesi Rayasi showed his class in hitting the line, from the blindside wing, at speed to keep them in contention, while replacement Billy Proctor benefited from more class from Rayasi to score. But the home side turned over a crucial try moments from the end when replacement halfback Jamie Booth had the ball stripped as he attempted to run through a lineout close to the line and it was replacement back Hudson Creighton who scored for the Brumbies.
Brumbies 42 (Rob Valentini, Lachlan Lonergan, Jahrome Brown, Tom Banks, Hudson Creighton tries; Noah Lolesion 4 con, 3 pen) Hurricanes 25 (Peter Umaga-Jensen, Salesi Rayasi, Billy Proctor tries; Jordie Barrett 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 16-13