Round 10 Wrap: Pressure mounts for playoff spots

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Despite losing 27-32 to the Hurricanes, the Brumbies remain in second place, with the Hurricanes one point behind and the Blues two points back.

The Crusaders have slipped to fifth on 28 points.

Three Australian teams, the Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs, are in the top eight, with the Highlanders, who lost 20-21 to the Waratahs, hovering in eighth place, one point ahead of the Rebels and two ahead of the Force and Drua.

In playing such a key role with 19 points in the Chiefs' 34-24 win over the Crusaders, Damian McKenzie became the first player to pass 100 points in the competition.

Teammate Shaun Stevenson scored another try to remain on top of the try-scoring list with nine tries, one ahead of Reds wing Zach Kibirige and two ahead of Leicester Fainga'anuku (Crusaders), Cameron Roigard (Hurricanes) and Jordan Petaia (Reds).

Hurricanes 32 Brumbies 27

Struggling to cope with the dewy conditions in Wellington, both sides contributed to an error rate that belied the second plays third in the standings. Initially, the Brumbies made the most of their opportunities through a great counterattack when wing Corey Toole raced onto a pass from first five-eighths Noah Lolesio to create indecision in the wider Hurricanes' defence. He moved at speed to drift across the field and then applied the hammer to secure an outside break and feed lock Cadeyrn Neville inside with lock Nick Frost on hand to take the final pass and score. But the home team had their skill in play when wing Salesi Rayasi slipped a kick to the corner, where flanker Devan Flanders scored. That was followed by a throw to the front of the lineout by hooker Asafo Aumua who, enjoying a dynamic evening, took a return pass and bolted down the sideline to slip a ball while falling in a tackle to No8 Ardie Savea, who scored. Another kick failure for the Hurricanes, by first five-eighths Aidan Morgan, saw the ball pop up for Frost, who gathered the ball, then cleared out on a 70m run to score his second.

Rayasi and fullback Josh Moorby combined to get to the Brumbies' line early in the second half, and halfback Cameron Roigard's ability to sniff a gap around the ruck hadn't declined for him to extend the lead. Flanker Rory Scott got one back from a lineout maul for the visitors. But the critical moment came from a five-metre scrum, a pick-up by Ardie Savea to pass to Roigard and then Morgan managed to step his way through the defence to score. Toole snared a loser's bonus point for his side in the final moments.

Hurricanes 32 (Devan Flanders, Ardie Savea, Cameron Roigard, Aidan Morgan tries; Jordie Barrett 3 con, 2 pen) Brumbies 27 (Nick Frost 2, Rory Scott, Corey Toole tries; Noah Lolesio 2 con; Ryan Lonergan pen). HT: 17-14

Waratahs 21 Highlanders 20

Game statistics reflect how close this contest was - the final result came down to Waratahs' pragmatism as they dominated in the final quarter to score the try, moments from the end that allowed them to deny any hopes of a Highlanders comeback. But for both teams, it was not the happiest of displays. Defensively, the Highlanders' inability to put centre Izaia Perese to ground 10m out from the goalline allowed him to score the opening try. Then, when having contained the Waratahs' lineout maul, they left too many gaps and second five-eighths Lalakai Foketi was quick to dive through for the second try, two minutes from halftime.

Sixteen minutes into the second half, a lineout drive resulted in the Highlanders' first try for No8 Hugh Renton. Five minutes later, they cashed in on an Aaron Smith 50-22 kick and from a goalline ruck, it was Smith who dashed around the side to give his side the lead. The home side had to work for their winning try in the face of determined goalline defence, but the loss of lock Pari Pari Parkinson to the sin bin took its toll on the numbers they could employ to try to halt the tide.

Waratahs 21 (Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Mahe Vailanu tries; Ben Donaldson 3 con) Highlanders 20 (Huge Renton, Aaron Smith tries; Sam Gilbert 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 14-6

Fijian Drua 14 Blues 30

Applying the power of their scrum and maul, the Blues denied the Fijian Drua the time and space they like to play their attacking rugby. Scrum time proved devastating to the home side, especially in the vital third quarter, as penalty after penalty knocked them and allowed the Blues to build on their 20-7 first-half lead. Centre Rieko Ioane scored their first try 28 minutes into the game off a quick penalty taken by halfback Finlay Christie. He fed fullback Zarn Sullivan who made ground before feeding Ioane, who forced his way through the defence to score. Then, just before the break, lock Cameron Suafoa scored an imposing try when breaking four tackles to get over the line.

The Drua needed a solid third quarter, but the Blues were ready and turned on the pressure. While impressive No8 Elia Canakaivata scored tries on either side of halftime, the home team's threat was well-contained. After Blues flanker and captain Dalton Papali'i scored in the 50th minute, the visitors only needed to retain their composure, which they did, to wrap up their win. However, the Drua defence couldn't contain the visitors, missing 27 tackles to 19 and losing eight mauls to one, while superior discipline denied the home side any chances at goal.

Fijian Drua 14 (Elia Canakaivata 2 tries; Teti Tela con; Kemu Valetini con) Blues 30 (Rieko Ioane, Cameron Suafoa, Dalton Papali'i tries; Beauden Barrett 3 con, 2 pen; Harry Plummer pen). HT: 20-7

Moana Pasifika 33 Rebels 43

Indiscipline cost Moana Pasifika dearly at Mt Smart Stadium. They gave away three yellow cards against the Rebels, and after each, the Rebels punished the home team by scoring a try each time. Yet, the home side won enough possession in the game, and while they beat 37 defenders to 25 and made 16 offloads to four, they couldn't finish. The Rebels showed more patience, especially with their lineout control, winning 15-7, the superiority in the maul 8-3 and their rucking dominance 104-70 to leave Moana Pasifika having to play catch-up.

However, down 33-5, Moana Pasifika put all their issues aside to launch a stunning final quarter effort to get back to 33-38 down with seconds left. But, in attempting to pry for potential match-winning gaps, they lost the ball when prop Cabous Eloff stripped the ball in a tackle and headed for the goal line, creating a ruck from which wing Monty Ioane crushed home hearts to not only secure the win but take away the losers' bonus point. It was a classic demonstration of the advantages of securing and holding the ball to pressure opponents to make mistakes.

Moana Pasifika 33 (Neria Foma'i, Levi Aumua, Solomone Funaki,  Fine Inisi 2 tries; Lincoln McClutchie 4 con) Rebels 43 (Lachie Anderson, Josh Kemeny, Carter Gordon, David Feliuai, Alex Mafi 2, Monty Ioane tries; Reece Hodge 4 con). HT: 5-26


Chiefs 34 Crusaders 24

Marqueé players for the Chiefs, first five-eighths Damian McKenzie and fullback Shaun Stevenson combined to give their side the impetus to achieve consecutive wins over the defending champion Crusaders in the block-busting game in Hamilton. McKenzie landed four penalty goals in the first half and then featured in two breaks with Stevenson, the first putting lock Brodie Retallick over for the first try and the second allowing Stevenson to score in the corner. But, the Crusaders, who scored through prop Tamaiti Williams in the first half, kept in touch through a second-half penalty try and a fine try by fullback Fergus Burke who caught centre Braydon Ennor's pass just as he was tackled over the sideline. They were in front for two minutes before McKenzie's goal-kicking boot reclaimed the lead.

Typically, when they have beaten the Crusaders, the Chiefs have shown their ability to get into the correct positions on the field to push their chances in the final quarter. And, so, it proved again. Apart from their try-scoring feats, another significant boost to the win was an impressive scrum moments from the end to kill off the Crusaders' hopes and highlight the strengths the Chiefs have developed in 2023. Their defence was impressive. With the Crusaders dominating possession carrying, nearly 500 times compared to 302 for the home side, they forced the Chiefs to make 174 tackles compared to 82. And while the Crusaders had 10 penalties to nine, they conceded within McKenzie's goal-kicking range.

Chiefs 34 (Brodie Retallick, Shaun Stevenson, Tyrone Thompson tries; Damian McKenzie 2 con, 5 pen) Crusaders 24 (Tamaiti Williams, Fergus Burke tries; Penalty try; Richie Mo'unga 2 con, pen). HT: 12-7


Reds 31 Force 17

Dominating all areas of possession, the Reds absorbed the Force's opening try of the game, the first of two scored by wing Zach Kibirige, to work through their forward pack and lift themselves higher into the top eight at Suncorp Stadium. The Force ran the ball often but found few gaps to launch meaningful sorties. The Reds proved more adhesive in ball maintenance requiring the Force, despite their metres gained 642-480, their passes 186-164 and their offloads 12-8, to make 158 tackles to 122. Flanker Fraser McReight highlighted the Reds' ability in the loose while also picking up two tries.

Up 21-5 at the turn, they scored through replacement prop George Blake to extend their lead, the Force's effort inflated by a late intercept try by Kibirige. However, they kept the Force in their half by applying pressure through the second half. They dominated the lineouts 19-8, while the Force did not help their cause by conceding 12 penalties to eight.

Reds 31 (Fraser McReight 2, Matt Faessler, George Blake tries; Lawson Creighton 4 con; Tom Lynagh pen) Force 17 (Zach Kibirige 2, Michael Wells tries; Ian Prior con). HT: 21-5


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