Round 7 Wrap: Hurricanes set up top of the table clash

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The Chiefs had the bye and will meet the Hurricanes in a top-of-the-table contest in round eight.

The Brumbies are in third on 26, the Crusaders fourth on 23, and the Blues fifth on 21, having broken away from the rest of the sides with seven points back to the sixth-placed Highlanders.

Crusaders 38 Moana Pasifika 21

First five-eighths Richie Mo'unga was charged-up to make the most of his 100th appearance for the Crusaders, and when the Moana Pasifika succumbed to a swivel of his hips, he was through the gap in an instant when an in-pass finding hooker Corey Taylor on the sport to score. But what Mo'unga could do, so could Levi Aumua for the visitors, and he could claim an even more superior break to score his side's first. Then, from a ruck in his 22-metre area, wing Timoci Tavatavanawai broke the defence. When tackled, he passed on to flanker Alamanda Motuga who set sail for the line only to be pulled down by opposite number Corey Kellow, who then infringed in the incident and was sin-binned. However, Tatavatavanawai wasn't finished. From a goal line scrum, he ran hard at the line before slipping a pass to Aumua to score his second try.

A lineout maul produced a second try for Taylor. Still, the halftime lead went to the visitors after a long goal-line pass from halfback Ereatara Enari found Tavatavanawai unmarked and able to cross to claim a 21-17 lead. Reduced to 14 when lock Michael Curry was sin-binned on the Moana Pasifika line, the defence held for five minutes, but a perfectly-placed Mo'unga lob bounced for wing Macca Springer to secure the ball and in-pass to lock Dominic Gardiner, who scrambled his way over the line to reclaim the lead. Into the final quarter, and three points ahead, the Crusaders made use of a Moana Pasifika kick to unleash a trademark support play after fullback Fergus Burke took the ball to pass through the hands of Springer, wing Will Gaulter and second five-eighths Dallas McLeod, who scored. Replacement hooker Brodie McAlister linked with replacement Melani Nanai and McLeod handling before replacement halfback Willi Heinz took the final pass to complete the scoring with two minutes left.

Crusaders 38 (Codie Taylor 2, Dominic Gardiner, Dallas McLeod, Willi Heinz tries; Richie Mo'unga 5 con, pen) Moana Pasifika 21 (Levi Aumua 2, Timoci Tavatavanawai tries; Lincoln McClutchie 3 con). HT: 17-21

Reds 24 Brumbies 52

Stating their intentions early, the Reds scored first in the wet conditions courtesy of a lineout drive try to hooker Matt Faessler. But three minutes into the game, they lost lock Angus Blyth to a red card after his yellow card was upgraded for a late and dangerous tackle on wing Corey Toole. The Brumbies swooped, with fullback Tom Wright crossing for the easiest of openers. Reds' halfback Tate McDermott offered some home when making a mockery of the Brumbies' defence at a lineout near halfway to beat four tacklers to score an outstanding individual try. A clever play from a goal line scrum created space on the outside for Toole's replacement Ben O'Donnell to score. Creative play via an inside break and a kick and regather by Jordan Petaia resulted in a penalty after Wright was yellow-carded at a ruck. But the Brumbies crossed from a lineout maul as hooker Lachlan Lonergan scored after the halftime hooter to claim a 21-17 lead.

Halfback Nic White's kick into the unguarded box put distance between the sides as centre Len Ikitau won the bounce in-goal to score. However, it became one-way traffic when second five-eighths Tamati Tua scored on the back of clever back play at the three-quarter mark. The Reds scored another lineout maul try to flanker Fraser McReight, but it wasn't enough to stem the Brumbies' stampede. Flanker Rob Valetini and lock Nick Frost scored to lock up a bonus point win for the visitors.

Reds 24 (Matt Faessler, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight tries; Isaac Henry 3 con, pen) Brumbies 52 (Tom Wright, Ben O'Donnell, Lachlan Lonergan, Len Ikitau, Tamati Tua, Rob Valetini, Nick Frost tries; Noah Lolesio 7 con, pen). HT:17-21

Highlanders 14 Hurricanes 29

Under the roof in Dunedin, the statistics showed how closely contested the game was. Two powerful runners scored a try apiece for their sides. Wing Salesi Rayasi crossed first for the Hurricanes, but No8 Hugh Renton forced his way across for the home team. The visitors claimed the halftime lead 8-7 via Jordie Barrett's penalty goal.

However, after the break, the Hurricanes found superior continuity, with lock James Blackwell managing to ground the ball among a melee of defenders under the crossbar. A few minutes later, an attempted reverse pass by halfback Folau Fakatava was intercepted by his opposite Cameron Roigard, who ran 70m to score and secure the winning momentum for his side. Then, after substitutions were made, replacement halfback Jamie Booth found a way around a ruck to break through and reward Rayasi for his supporting run to score his second. The Highlanders kept the pressure on to close the gap for a bonus point but could only claim a late try to skipper and flanker Billy Harmon.

Highlanders 14 (Hugh Renton, Billy Harmon tries; Sam Gilbert 2 con) Hurricanes 29 (Salesi Rayasi 2, James Blackwell, Cameron Roigard tries; Jordie Barrett 3 con, pen). HT:7-8

Rebels 17 Blues 54

For 40 minutes, the Rebels managed to upset the rhythm of the Blues on a wet night in Melbourne. The two packs slugged it out for the home team to enjoy a 17-13 lead. Tries to fullback Andrew Kellaway, after a length of the field, break out, and a lineout drive try to flanker Brad Wilkin, were matched by two by lock Sam Darry and hooker Ricky Riccitelli.

However, in the second half, the Blues had greater reward with their possession advantage and relentless ball running in seven unanswered tries. The Rebels were hindered by losing both hookers on halftime, with uncontested scrums becoming the norm in the second half. That gave the Blues the space they needed to work their attacking play, carrying for 838 metres compared to 349 by the Rebels and beating 24 defenders to seven. The offloads favoured the Blues 11-5 while they won 18 turnovers to 11. Halfback Finlay Christie and wing Mark Telea thrived on the opportunities to score two tries each while first five-eighths Beauden Barrett's kicking created several chances for his outsides.

Rebels 17 (Andrew Kellaway, Brad Wilkin tries; Reece Hodge 2 con, pen) Blues 54 (Sam Darry, Ricky Riccitelli, Finlay Christie 2, Mark Telea 2, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Zarn Sullivan, Dalton Papali'i tries; Beauden Barrett 3 con, pen). HT: 17-13


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