The top four have a break on the field heading into the Super Round Melbourne presented by Fiji Airways in round 10. The Blues, by a points advantage of nine, lead from the Brumbies both on 31 points. The Reds are on 30 points and the Crusaders 28.
The Blues broke 'the curse of Carlos' in Christchurch for their first win since 2004. That win was memorable for the action of Blues' first five-eighths Carlos Spencer treating the Crusaders with contempt when breaking through and racing under the posts before turning to his right and touching down in the corner, landing the conversion for good measure.
It was a win that carried the Blues to the top of the ladder with all sides completing all their Covid-enforced catch-up games before the trans-Tasman leg of the competition begins in Melbourne at the weekend.
Hurricanes 53 Moana Pasifika 12
Mauling tries were the hallmark of this midweek game that saw the Hurricanes repay their earlier loss to Moana Pasifika with an unrelenting display that produced eight tries to two as the Hurricanes forwards gained complete dominance over the visitors. Former Blues flanker Blake Gibson was in outstanding form for the Hurricanes, scoring two tries and placing plenty of pressure on Moana Pasifika at the breakdown. Hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes marked his debut with a try, only starting when James O'Reilly had to pull out just before the start. It was a tough call for the Pasifika side, who endured the most demanding schedule of all New Zealand's sides and the spirit that had come through in earlier games was finally worn down. They were not helped by another loss in the penalty count 10-6.
Hurricanes 53 (Alex Fidow, Blake Gibson 2, Wes Goosen, Kianu Kereru-Symes, TJ Perenara, Pasilio Tosi, Reed Prinsep tries; Ruben Love 4 con, pen; Aidan Morgan con) Moana Pasifika 12 (Michael Curry, Alex McRobbie tries; Christian Leali'ifano con). HT: 22-5
Crusaders 23 Blues 27
Emerging Blues' spirit overrode traditional Crusaders grit in the game of the season on Good Friday. The Crusaders may have scored the opening try when fullback Will Jordan was fed into a gap beside the goalposts from an attacking scrum, but the Blues responded immediately when first five-eighths Beauden Barrett split the Crusaders defence. Barrett almost made the line 70m distant but halfback Finlay Christie was on hand at the goalline ruck to put the ball over the line in reply. Ten minutes later, Barrett's blindside play gave skipper and flanker Dalton Papalii space on the left flank before he cut in and then outflanked the defence to score. Up 17-7 at the break, the Blues were aided by Crusaders' indiscipline that saw second five-eighths David Havili sin-binned for a cynical foul and skipper Scott Barrett sent off for a shoulder to the head of Blues prop Alex Hodgman. That allowed the Blues to register an immediate lineout drive try to hooker Kurt Eklund (his sixth of the season). The Crusaders got close with a try to replacement loose forward Pablo Matera but as they sniffed a late match-winner, magnificent cover defence from centre Rieko Ioane and Papalii saw replacement lock Dom Gardiner bundled out in the corner.
Crusaders 23 (Will Jordan, Sevu Reece 2 tries; Richie Mo'unga con, 2 pen) Blues 27 (Dalton Papalii, Finlay Christie, Kurt Eklund tries; Stephen Perofeta 2 con, pen; Beauden Barrett con, pen). HT: 7-17
Rebels 32 Reds 36
Mounting a third-quarter fightback to overhaul the Reds to lead 25-24 with 17 minutes remaining, the Rebels could dream of an upset but the Reds bench stepped up to score two tries in two minutes – the second their third 50-metre-plus solo try, to set up their winning buffer. The win came at a loss for the Reds with fullback Jordan Petaia suffering a hamstring injury at the midpoint of the first half. Reds flanker Fraser McReight was destructive at the breakdown, his 27th minute turnover setting up an 80-metre inter-passing move that saw halfback Tate McDermott race 50 metres to score. The Rebels looked set to level the scores after a Richard Hardwick try, but an intercept pass, while the Reds were playing with 14 men, allowed replacement wing Lawson Creighton to be unchallenged in another 80-metre burst. Replacements prop Taniela Tupou and outside back Josh Flook added two more before home prop Cabous Eloff crossed late for a try.
Rebels 32 (Richard Hardwick, James Hanson, Matt Philip, Cabous Eloff tries; Matt To'omua 3 con, pen: Reece Hodge pen) Reds 36 (Connor Vest, Tate McDermott, Lawson Creighton, Taniela Tupou, Josh Flook tries; James O'Connor 4 con, pen). HT: 15-24
Chiefs 45 Moana Pasifika 12
Chiefs' determination to get a win at home, after two earlier losses, meant life was always going to be difficult for a Moana Pasifika side completing the second of their storm weeks. No8 Luke Jacobson confirmed that 10 minutes into the game scoring from a pushover scrum. Wing Etene Nanai-Seturo's corkscrew run off an inside pass produced a second try. Moana wing Anzelo Tuitavuki got one back. However, a clever run from the base of a ruck by Chiefs' lock Tupou Vaa'i opened up a chance that second five-eighths Alex Nankivell took for the try. In the second half, halfback Ereata Enari showed his speed from the base when racing ahead to pass out to centre Solomone Kata for the try. Nanai-Seturo was in the action again, chipping ahead for Nankivell to get the bounce to score his second and then on the end of a passing rush to complete his brace. Replacement five-eighths Rivez Reihana ended the scoring with the Chiefs securing a handy bonus point win.
Chiefs 45 (Luke Jacobson, Etene Nanai-Seturo 2, Alex Nankivell 2, Rivez Reihana tries; Bryn Gatland 6 con, pen) Moana Pasifika 12 (Anzelo Tuitavuki, Solomone Kata tries; Lincoln McClutchie con). HT 24-5
Highlanders 21 Hurricanes 22
In a Forsyth Barr Stadium dance of the desperates, in Dunedin, the Hurricanes belied the effects of three games in a week to deny the home team in the 81st minute. Centre Bailyn Sullivan cut back against the tide from the right wing to part the home defence to open the try scoring. It didn't help the home team that they lost lock Josh Dickson to a red card for an illegal tackle. That was followed by a set-piece variation that saw left wing Salesi Rayasi shadowing across the backline to enter on the right to pierce a gap to score. Ten minutes into the second half, the Highlanders' lineout maul struck for hooker Andrew Makalio to score. They followed that with a superb try, inspired by replacement five-eighths Mitch Hunt's kick ahead which was cleverly slapped back infield to him by second five-eighths Thomas Umaga-Jensen. Prop Daniel Lienert-Brown was on hand to take Hunt's pass. He went to ground short of the line and, while it was turned over by Ardie Savea, Savea had the ball taken from him and it was home lock Max Hicks who saw a gap and took it to score. Four minutes later Hurricanes' wings Julian Savea and Rayasi combined to create a chance that replacement fullback Aidan Morgan secured in the corner. The Highlanders thought they had scored through replacement prop Saula Mau in injury time, but the TMO ruled any chance out and the Hurricanes took the points.
Highlanders 21 (Andrew Makalio, Max Hicks tries; Marty Banks con, 3 pen) Hurricanes 22 (Bailyn Sullivan, Salesi Rayasi, Aidan Morgan tries; Jordie Barrett 2con, pen). HT: 6-14
Force 24 Waratahs 41
Twenty-four points in the opening 14 minutes to the Waratahs locked the Force out of their home game in Perth. It all started in the sixth minute when wing Mark Nawaqanitawase pulled off an intercept to run in from 50m for the opening try. A stunning outside gap taken by first five-eighths Tane Edmed opened up the chance for second-five Lalakai Foketi, and then moments later flanker Michael Hooper picked the ball from the base of a ruck to run in a third try. Force first five-eighths Reesjan Pasiota got his side on the board. An exchange of lineout maul tries, two to the Force and one to the Waratahs, after the turnaround before two tries to wing Alex Newsome, when the Force lost Pasitoa to the sin-bin. Newsome's second was a fine team try. However, before they could celebrate a bonus point was lost when the Force had the final say through a try to Pasitoa while the Waratahs had two in the sin-bin.
Force 24 (Reesjan Pasiota 2, Tim Anstee, Andrew Ready tries; Ian Prior 2 con) Waratahs 41 (Mark Nawaqanitawase, Lalakai Foketi, Michael Hooper, Dave Porecki, Alex Newsome 2 tries; Tane Edmed 4 con, pen). HT: 7-24