Round 11 Wrap: Fijian Drua move into the playoffs zone

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The Drua have moved from 11th to eighth, with the Waratahs and Queensland Reds in sixth and seventh places, respectively. The Drua have now taken out the Crusaders, Rebels and Hurricanes on home soil this season and are well placed to secure a historic quarterfinal spot.

Milestones are starting to mount. Chiefs five-eighths/fullback utility Damian McKenzie became the ninth player to score 1000 points in Super Rugby and the first Chief. The list is: Daniel Carter, Morné Steyn, Beauden Barrett, Elton Jantjies, Richie Mo'unga, Bernard Foley, Christian Lealiifano, Stirling Mortlock, and Damian McKenzie.

By scoring two tries in the Hurricanes' loss to Fijian Drua, wing Julian Savea drew level with Israel Folau on 60 tries, the most scored in Super Rugby. Savea had been level with TJ Perenara, Caleb Ralph, and one fewer than Doug Howlett.

Highlanders 28 Chiefs 52

There's no accounting for speed. The Highlanders dominated possession in the first quarter. They scored the opening try through prop Ethan de Groot, but that wasn't enough to contain the enthusiasm of the competition-leading Chiefs. Unleashing outstanding counterattacks from all over the field, the visitors put the home team to the sword under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Wing Emoni Narawa was the first to demonstrate the value of running at high speed to work past three defenders on an unlikely run to score beneath the posts. Then, the man of the moment, fullback Shaun Stevenson extended his try-scoring lead in the competition with another before some Daniel Rona magic with a chip over the defensive line saw second five-eighth Anton Lienert-Brown catch and score.

The Highlanders kept trying to stay in touch with halfback Aaron Smith, fullback Sam Gilbert and flanker Shannon Frizell all getting across, but every time hopes were raised, the Chiefs squashed them, never more than in prop George Dyer's try. Again, it was speed on the break from fullback Damian McKenzie, where he played most of the game after starting at first five. Halfback Brad Weber was on hand to carry the play forward with a sizzling burst before finding flanker Pita-Gus Sowakula who lobbed to prop Dyer. He unleashed an audacious sidestep to score. McKenzie, in the meantime, passed 1000 points for the Chiefs, and they extended their lead on the points table.

Highlanders 28 (Ethan de Groot, Aaron Smith, Sam Gilbert, Shannon Frizell tries; Gilbert 4 con) Chiefs 52 (Daniel Rona 2, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Dyer, Brad Weber tries; Damian McKenzie 7 con, pen). HT: 14-28

Fijian Drua 27 Hurricanes 24

Outstanding strength in the face of four Hurricanes defenders from wing Taniela Rakuro resulted in the Drua's first try. Wing Julian Savea got one back through an orthodox Hurricanes' backline move. He scored a second moments into the second half to give the Hurricanes the lead. However, it was short-lived as a fast, direct pass from halfback Frank Lomani was taken by centre Iosefo Masi, who transferred the ball by overhead lob for Rakuro to score his second. The Hurricanes put the task to their pack, and prop Xavier Numia corkscrewed over the line to put his side back in front. Then six minutes later, flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi went over beneath the crossbar to gain a 10-point lead.

But that was diminished soon after when, from a Hurricanes kick into the box, replacement wing Peni Matawalu took the ball, cleared the defence and fed hooker Tevita Ikanivere, who had replacement Meli Derenalagi in support for the try. A penalty goal from replacement five-eighths Kemu Valetini levelled the scores 24-24. But after a decisive break by Masi, lock Isaia Walker-Leawere was sin-binned for the second time, a red card, and Valetini kicked a penalty goal from a handy distance to seal the win two minutes from time.

Fijian Drua 27 (Taniela Rakuro 2, Meli Derenalagi tries; Frank Lomani 2 con; Kemu Valetini con 2 pen) Hurricanes 24 (Julian Savea 2, Xavier Numia, Du'Plessis Kirifi tries; Jordie Barrett 2 con). HT: 7-5

Crusaders 48 Wester Force 13

Crusaders' power was rampant against the Western Force in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon. But, while locals were delighted with the win, they also enjoyed the sight of fullback Will Jordan running around in trademark style in his first game of the season. The formula was Crusaders 101 - build a base with two lineout drive tries to hooker Brodie McAlister and then let Jordan loose and have him give wing Leicester Fainga'anuku the ball with space to spare, and three tries will knock most teams back. Follow that up with a set move from a scrum that saw wing Macca Springer take a blind pass from second five-eighths David Havili to race into a gap, step around the defence, and give the home side a 24-6 lead at the turn.

Straight after halftime, another lineout drive saw McAlister score his hat-trick try on the back of a maul. Soon after, Jordan, this time with a long pass, and Fainga'anuku were in the play again for another try. Set-piece strength created another scoring chance for Springer, although he had some work to do with a pass landing behind him – but he made it. Then, coming on as replacement hooker Codie Taylor made it a great night for the hooking fraternity by getting on the scoreboard with a try. The Force finally got over the line, with Jackson Pugh powering his way across on the blindside from a ruck.

Crusaders 48 (Brodie McAlister 3, Leicester Fainga'nuku 2, Macca Springer 2, Codie Taylor tries;  Richie Mo'unga 4 con) Force 13 (Jackson Pugh try; Max Burey con, 2 pen). HT: 24-6

Blues 31 Moana Pasifika 30

Auckland City got its crosstown rivalry underway, but not quite how it expected. Pressured into playing below par by Moana Pasifika, it took an injury-time penalty try to secure a one-point win for the Blues. It was an exasperating night for the hosts, caught on the end of an 11-15 count in Moana Pasifika's favour from Australian referee Graham Cooper. Nevertheless, surprising Moana Pasifika resistance gave the Blues plenty to think about when going to the halftime break leading by two points, only 17-15, having been up 17-3 with three minutes to go. The Blues looked to have shaken their malaise when scoring three tries in eight minutes, the first to flanker Akira Ioane from the aftermath of a lineout drive and a lineout variation at the front of the lineout when captain and flanker Dalton Papali'i took the ball and turned it back to hooker Kurt Eklund who dashed along the sideline to score. The third came after wing Caleb Clarke burst into the backline from the blind, fed Ioane, who ploughed ahead before turning the ball back to Clarke, whose speed was too much. But Moana Pasifika had a reward for running the ball from tap penalties when wing Timoci Tavatavanawai caught the Blues napping with another tap penalty to cross with four minutes to the turn. Then, from a lineout drive in the corner, prop Abraham Pole drove over in the maul to score. Turnovers by the Blues and indiscipline saw first five-eighths Christian Lealiifano and replacement Fine Inisi secure the lead for Moana Pasifika. But the Blues showed control when needed during three goalline scrums that saw Moana Pasifika lose two players to the sin bin and, on their third attempt, win their penalty try.

Blues 31 (Akira Ioane, Kurt Eklund, Caleb Clarke, Sam Darry tries; Penalty try; Harry Plummer con; Zarn Sullivan con) Moana Pasifika 30 (Timoci Tavatavanawai, Abraham Pole, Christian Lealiifano, Fine Inisi tries; Lealiifano 2 con, pen; D'Angelo Leuila pen). HT: 17-15

Reds 24 Waratahs 32

After exchanging lineout maul tries, the first to hooker David Porecki for the Waratahs and the second to Matt Faessler for the home side in Townsville, the sides set about their battle to firm their places in the top eight. Flanker Taleni Seu may never score an easier try that pushed the Waratahs ahead when taking a long pass across the face of the goal line defence from halfback Jake Gordon. But the Reds worked their way back to the Waratahs' line only to see wing Suliasi Vunivalu take the ball from the base of the ruck and worm his way across to claim the lead. The sides were level 17-17 at halftime after Waratahs' first five-eighths, Ben Donaldson landed a penalty goal.

Growing Waratahs' confidence was evident four minutes into the second half when support play was rewarded when a move looked like dying, but second five-eighths Lalalai Foketi popped up at the right time to take a pass and raced down the sideline, beat the tackle attempt of replacement Filip Daugunu to score. Their pack extended the lead with prop Harry Johnson-Holmes driving over from a ruck while first five-eighths Ben Donaldson's penalty goal shut the Reds out of the contest. However, they did get some satisfaction by scoring the game's last try, a tap penalty out from the Waratahs line with replacement prop Peni Ravi scoring.

Reds 24 (Matt Faessler, Suliasi Vunivalu, Peni Ravai tries; Lawson Creighton 3 con, pen) Waratahs 32 (David Porecki, Taleni Seu, Lalakai Foketi, Harry Johnson-Holmes tries; Ben Donaldson 3 con, 2 pen). HT: 17-17

Rebels 26 Brumbies 33

Melbourne's Rebels put the pressure on the Brumbies in a tight contest that ended with the visitors winning but unable to secure a critical bonus point. First five-eighths Noah Lolesio and openside flanker Jahrome Brown helped themselves to a brace of tries each, with blindside flanker Rob Valetini picking up a decisive try that was sufficient to hold off a fast-finishing home side who saw wing Lachie Anderson cross twice and flanker Josh Kemeny and first five-eighths Carter Gordon score.

The Brumbies had to withstand some determined Rebels play in the final stages before being able to secure their second place with games remaining against the Highlanders (home), the Force, Chiefs (home) and Rebels (home). They had to make 198 tackles to 136 and conceded 17 turnovers to 12 for the Rebels.

Rebels 26 (Josh Kemeny, Lachie Anderson 2, Carter Gordon tries; Reece Hodge 3 con) Brumbies 33 (Noah Lolesio 2, Jahrome Brown 2, Rob Valetini tries; Lolesio 3 con, Ryan Lonergan con). HT: 14-19


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