Hoskins Sotutu powered the Blues through to the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final as they beat the Western Force 31-21 on Saturday, denying the Crusaders a shot at silverware.

Two tries from Sotutu and one each for Dalton Papalii and Mark Telea helped the Blues carve out a 28-0 interval lead, with Telea denied another try in the second half after the TMO identified an infringement by team-mate Ray Niuia, who was yellow-carded.

By that stage, a Western Force fightback was under way, tries from Feleti Kaitu'u and Tevita Kuridrani having narrowed the deficit, and Rob Kearney went over in the closing stages to cut the deficit to 10 points.

However, the Blues, helped by 11 points from the boot of Otere Black, were not to be caught and they will face the Highlanders at Eden Park in the final next Saturday.

Sotutu had darted in down the left for the opening try, and Telea struck just before the half-hour mark after the Blues withstood a period of Force pressure, with Papalii going over for the third.

Sotutu barged through again just before the break, as the Blues piled on the points.

Kaitu'u made the first dent in the Blues' big lead in the 49th minute, going over from close range, and Kuridrani brought the contest to life when he scythed in for a second Force try just seven minutes later. A penalty from Black eased the Blues' nerves, meaning Kearney's late effort was just a consolation.

That result meant the Crusaders missed out on the final, with the Super Rugby champions each year from 2017 to 2019 seeing trophy hopes scuppered despite beating the Rebels 52-26 in Melbourne earlier in the day.

Wing Sevu Reece pounced for a hat-trick in the eight-try Crusaders show, with Mitchell Drummond, Will Jordan, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Oliver Jager and Braydon Ennor also going over for the men from Christchurch, who finished third in the series.

The top three sides finished level on 23 points from five games, with points difference settling the final places as the Blues took top spot with +119, the Highlanders second on +103, and the Crusaders (+97) agonisingly third.

The Blues beat the Reds 31-24 in Brisbane on Friday to stay top of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman table.

Leon MacDonald's side have now won four out of four in the competition, though they were denied a precious bonus point at Suncorp Stadium against the injury-plagued Reds.

Harry Wilson found a gap to score the opening try of the match for the home team, but Brandon Paenga-Amosa's yellow card for collapsing a maul proved to be a turning point.

Dalton Papalii and winger Mark Telea crossed over for the Blues in the space of seven minutes as MacDonald's charges took full advantage of the one-man advantage.

Patrick Tuipulotu and Finlay Christie were next to dot down for the leaders, either side of Paenga-Amosa's try, to give their side a 17-point advantage.

The Reds made a fight of it late on when a crosskick sent Filipo Daugunu over, soon followed by a successful penalty from the Fiji-born winger, but the comeback fell just short.

The Blues are one point better off than Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders, who also made it four wins from four by defeating the Western Force 29-21 in Christchurch.

Scott Robertson's side were made to work hard for the victory after falling behind to Toni Pulu's well-taken try inside the opening four minutes.

Manasa Mataele finished soon after and Will Jordan slid over to complete a quickfire turnaround for the Crusaders, who went further ahead thanks to Whetu Douglas.

Ollie Callan's score from close range looked to have given the Force some hope, only for Sione Havili to cross the whitewash after the half-time hooter had sounded.

Jordan got his second of the game to give the Crusaders a 15-point lead and they stayed strong at the back until the final seconds.

Jordan Olowofela chased down Kyle Godwin's kick and went over, denying the Crusaders a bonus point in the process.

The Reds finally ended the wait for an Australian win in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season, but there were heavy defeats for the Waratahs and the Brumbies on Saturday.

With Damian McKenzie sent off in the 22nd minute for making contact with the head area, the impressive Reds appeared to be coasting to victory when they opened up a 40-8 lead midway through the second half.

Isaac Henry scored two of their six tries, the first of which came with Chase Tiatia in the sin bin. McKenzie's red card then swung the game even further in the Reds' favour, as they capitalised on having an extra man to run up the score.

However, they were then forced to repel a frenetic comeback bid, four tries from the Chiefs closing the gap down to six points in the closing minutes.

The hosts managed to hold on to win 40-34 and register a first Australian success in the tournament at the 15th attempt, in the process denting their opponents' hopes of making the grand final as they collected only a losing bonus point.

New Zealand sides had dominated the two earlier fixtures, though, including the rampant Crusaders cutting loose against the Waratahs.

There were eight different try-scorers for Scott Robinson's team in an emphatic 54-28 triumph, with Richie Mo'unga converting all bar one of the scores in the rout.

The Waratahs did get within 10 points after Izaia Perese touched down with Oli Jager in the sin bin, while they also capitalised on yellow cards for David Havili and Nathan Vella to score a late try through Alex Newsome, albeit it was no more than a consolation effort.

The Blues made it three straight Trans-Tasman wins despite a determined Brumbies side matching them in the first half at Eden Park, the away team even holding a 10-7 lead when hooker Connal McInerney went over.

They were unable to hold onto the lead for long and trailed 17-10 at the break, Finlay Christie touching down for a try converted by Otere Black, who also slotted over a penalty.

The hosts added 21 points without reply in the second half, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam and TJ Faiane all grabbing tries in a 38-10 triumph that sees them take over at the top of the table.

Richie Mo'unga plundered a hat-trick as the Crusaders demolished the Reds 63-28 in Brisbane, with the champions of New Zealand swamping their Australian counterparts in Super Rugby Trans Tasman.

In just the second round of the competition, the Canterbury giants showed off their prowess and Mo'unga served up a dazzling offering of his quality.

The All Blacks fly-half was in inspired form from the off, and by the half-hour mark he had already snagged a pair of clinical tries and set up Sevu Reece to dart in for another stunning score. With Cullen Grace also sprinting through for a try, and Mo'unga clinical from the tee, the rampaging Crusaders were 28-0 ahead after just 29 minutes.

Tate McDermott got the Reds on the board with their first try, but the Crusaders kept the points flowing, Reece dashing in at the right corner to increase their lead to 35-7 early in the second half, before Mo'unga got his third try after 55 minutes, dotting down near the posts to allow himself an easy conversion.

A penalty try, accompanied by a yellow card for Harry Hoopert, nudged the Crusaders 49-7 ahead, but curiously the 14-man Reds then enjoyed their best spell, as Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu scored classy tries to reduce their deficit to 49-21 going into the final 15 minutes.

Hopes of further damage limitation were crushed when Tamaiti Williams powered over and Codie Taylor added another try to emphasise a devastating team performance, before Brandon Paenga-Amosa barged in for a last-gasp consolation.

Luke Jacobson earlier crossed twice as the Chiefs ran in six tries in a 40-19 victory over the Brumbies in Hamilton.

The hosts overwhelmed their visitors, with Jacobson landing a first-half double, collecting from the back of the scrum and crossing from close range each time, and further tries coming from Tupou Vaa'i, Damian McKenzie, Alex Nankivell and Anton Lienert-Brown.

McKenzie booted five conversions, with the result never in doubt. The Brumbies responded through tries from Len Ikitau, Tom Cusack and, right at the death, Rob Valetini.

Wing Bryce Heem grabbed a hat-trick for a rampant Blues side whose second-half dominance secured a 48-21 win against the Waratahs.

Armed with a 22-14 half-time advantage, the Blues raised their game for the second 40 minutes and pulled away, inflicting a 10th straight defeat of the season on the visitors to Eden Park.

Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders survived a second-half fightback from the Brumbies to start their Trans-Tasman campaign with a dramatic 31-29 win.

The Crusaders appeared to be on course for a comfortable victory when they led 19-7 at the interval thanks to tries from Ethan Blackadder, Richie Mo'unga and David Havili.

Irae Simone's try and five points from the boot of Noah Lolesio trimmed the gap to two points after the break, only for Brendon O'Connor and Cullen Grace to cross to restore the Crusaders' measure of command.

But Tom Banks' try and Lolesio's conversion restored hope for Super Rugby AU runners-up the Brumbies, who then moved within two points of sending the game to extra time when Tom Wright's inside pass sent Rob Valetini over in the last minute.

However, this time Lolesio could not find the desired accuracy from the tee, his kick from the sideline sailing just wide of the left-hand post as the Crusaders clung on.

There was a markedly similar end to the Chiefs' 20-19 victory over the Western Force.

The Chiefs led 10-7 at half-time and tries from Nathan Harris and Jonah Lowe appeared to put them in control.

But Luke Jacobson's 66th red card, which came after he received a second yellow for slowing the ball down at the ruck, gave the Force new life.

They made their one-man advantage count three minutes later as Richard Kahui went over and had a chance to snatch victory at the last after Domingo Miotti crossed.

Miotti, though, could not convert his own try, sending the attempt agonisingly wide of the uprights.

That kick ensured it was a clean sweep for New Zealand sides over their Australian opponents, the Blues having run in eight tries in trouncing the Rebels 50-3 earlier in the day.

The Blues signed off their Super Rugby Aotearoa season with a 39-19 win over the Chiefs, who understandably had one eye on next week's final against the Crusaders.

A late double from replacement AJ Lam finally allowed the Blues to shake off their much-changed opponents, who rested several first-choice players.

Hooker Kurt Eklund barrelled through a vacant defence for the opening try at Eden Park and a bloodied Adrian Choat – who took a stray boot in the face for his troubles – touched down to help make it 14-9 at the interval.

But Bryn Gatland's unerring boot reduced the deficit to two points early in the second period as the fly-half went four from four off the tee.

Otere Black was off the mark with his conversion from Zarn Sullivan's maiden Super Rugby try and, when Gatland had no such problems after Bailyn Sullivan crossed, the scored were level with an hour played.

Black re-established his composure and the Blues lead with his only penalty of the match and, added the extras when Hoskins Sotutu powered over off the back off a five-metre scrum.

The Chiefs were unable to rally again, knowing their campaign will ultimately be defined a week from now, and Lam made hay with his late salvo.

The Crusaders will host the 2021 Super Rugby Aotaeroa final against the Chiefs after returning to winning ways with a 29-6 victory over the Blues on Sunday in Christchurch.

The 2020 Super Rugby Aotaeroa champions scored four tries to the Blues' none, with two from Will Jordan including a fine solo run to open the scoring in the seventh minute.

Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor also crossed for the Canterbury side who led 12-0 at the interval and never looked back.

Taylor remains the leading try scorer this season, getting his seventh of 2021 on the hour when the Crusaders maul forced their way over following a line-out.

The result also means that the Blues can no longer mathematically make for the top two thus will not feature in the decider despite having a game in hand against the Chiefs in Round 10, having collected no points on Sunday.

The Blues have lost four of their past five matches, fading from contention after a promising 2-0 start.

The Crusaders had gone down 26-25 to the Chiefs in Round Eight, putting at jeopardy their hopes of hosting the Final but Sunday's result ended any doubts.

Scott Robertson's side have been top of the table since Round Two, having started the 2021 season with five straight wins.

Alex Hodgman saw red as a depleted Highlanders side dealt a blow to the Blues' Super Rugby Aotearoa Finals hopes with a hard-earned 35-29 victory on Friday.

Hodgman's dismissal came in the final 10 minutes of a close contest in Dunedin, for a wild high tackle on James Lentjes.

The Highlanders captialised, with Michael Collins going over for what was ultimately the winning try – Hoskins Sotutu's late score proving nothing but a consolation.

It was a rollercoaster encounter, with the lead swapped four times in the first half, Josh Ioane tallying up 12 points for the hosts, though his brother Rieko was one of two Blues try scorers in the opening 40 minutes.

Jona Nareki's try and Mitchell Hunt's penalty nosed the Highlanders ahead after the interval, and though Nepo Laulala crossed to apply pressure, Hodgman's red card proved decisive.

Having lost to the Chiefs last time out, the Highlanders are now up to third, one point behind the second-placed Blues.

The Blues got their Super Rugby Aotearoa season back on track with a battling 27-17 victory over the Hurricanes at Eden Park and the ruthless Reds maintained their perfect Super Rugby AU record on Saturday.

Leon MacDonald's side were smarting from back-to-back defeats to leaders the Crusaders and the Chiefs, but they responded with a win in Auckland.

A penalty try and three points from the boot of Otere Black put the Blues 10-9 up at half-time, with Hurricanes full-back Jordie Barrett on target three times from the tee.

Barrett bisected the posts for a fourth time to put Tony Brown's men in front, but TJ Faiane finished following an incisive break from Stephen Perofeta 10 minutes into the second half.

Mark Telea then took a superb floating pass from Rieko Ioane to cross in the corner and Black converted.

Reed Prinsep gave the Canes hope when he crashed over four minutes from time, but Black completed the scoring with a penalty right at the end as the Blues reduced the Crusaders' lead at the top to four points.

Taniela Tupou scored a first-half double as the Reds cruised to a 44-19 Super Rugby AU win over the Rebels to go four points clear of the Brumbies at the summit.

Tupou crossed twice in the space of 14 minutes, while Hunter Paisami, Fraser McReight, Jock Campbell and Josh Flook also touched down in a clinical display at AAMI Park.

Fly-half James O'Connor finished with a 14-point haul as the Reds took over at the top, with tries from Frank Lomani, Reece Hodge and Michael Wells in vain for the third-placed Rebels.

 

The Reds thrashed Waratahs 46-14 to maintain their perfect start to the Super Rugby AU season and return to the top of the standings.

Substitute Alex Mafi's second-half hat-trick helped seal an emphatic victory for the leaders, who had not beaten the Waratahs in Sydney in eight years.

Will Harrison kicked three penalties for the hosts in the first half, but the Reds responded through tries from Tate McDermott, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Filipo Daugunu.

Taniela Tupou crossed over early in the second half to extend the Reds' lead and, while Will Harris touched down to give Waratahs a temporary reprieve, their opponents soon ran away with the game.

Mafi, brought on at the interval, scored the first of his three tries with a little over an hour played and added two more before full-time, either side of Hugh Sinclair and Zane Nonggorr being sin-binned for separate offences.

The Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between Chiefs and Blues earlier on Saturday was a lot tighter, with Damian McKenzie snatching a famous 15-12 win for the hosts in the final minute.

Akira Ioane found a way through 24 minutes in for the only score of the first half of what turned out to be a thrilling contest in Hamilton.

But the Chiefs, who had gone 11 matches without a Super Rugby win before beating Hurricanes last weekend, hit back through McKenzie's penalty and a Samisoni Taukei'aho try, the hooker grounding the ball in the midst of a maul of players.

That lead lasted just a few minutes, however, as Tom Robinson charged clear and dotted down for the Blues' second try, which Otere Black was unable to add to from the conversion.

And that would prove a costly miss as, with less than a minute to go, McKenzie rounded off a fine counter-attack and brushed himself down to add the extras for a memorable victory that lifts Chiefs up to third, now within two points of their opponents.

Richie Mo'unga starred with 28 points as the Crusaders dominated the Blues 43-27 to remain unbeaten after four matches of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The New Zealand fly-half scored a try and added 23 points with the boot as the dominant visitors made it 13 consecutive wins over the Blues dating back to 2014 at a packed-out Eden Park.

Jack Goodhue, Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece all dotted down for the Crusaders, with the Blues scoring four tries themselves in a match packed with All Black internationals – Kurt Eklund, Blake Gibson and Hoskins Sotutu all registering for the hosts.

It was Mo'unga's accuracy off the tee that proved the difference, though.

The number 10 nailed all four conversions and added five penalties as the Crusaders went nine points clear.

"It's great to win here at Eden Park," Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said. "The Blues played some great rugby and tested us up front, it was a real battle there.

"It was almost like a Test match and we had to turn pressure into points."

The Blues made it two wins from two games, scoring five tries in a 39-17 victory over the Highlanders in Super Rugby Aotearoa in Auckland on Sunday.

The hosts proved unstoppable at Eden Park, practically putting the game beyond reach by half-time with a 17-3 lead, before some late consolation for the Highlanders.

The victory, which backed up the Blues' opening-round 31-16 triumph over the Hurricanes, underlines their genuine contender credentials.

After an early Highlanders penalty, the Blues got the first try in the ninth minute when Otere Black finished off Rieko Ioane's good work.

The Blues got their second try seven minutes later, with numbers on the left side allowing Rieko Ioane to draw the defence and offload for Caleb Clarke to score in the corner.

They were denied a spectacular try by a TMO ruling that Akira Ioane's pass to Rieko Ioane was forward shortly prior to half-time.

Josh Dickson was yellow-carded before the break and Emoni Narawa added a third Blues try shortly after the interval, as they spread right after a rolling maul.

Clarke's good kicking set up another opportunity which was taken by substitute hooker Kurt Eklund from another Blues rolling maul which left the Highlanders helpless.

Ash Dixon pulled a try back for the visitors, before flanker Akira Ioane dived over for the Blues.

Blues scrum-half Sam Nock received a late sin-binning for cynical play before Folau Fakatava got a late consolation try for the Highlanders, squeezing over the line.

The Blues started their Super Rugby Aotearoa season with a 31-16 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Last year's runners-up, the Blues scored three second-half tries at Sky Stadium in Wellington to record an impressive win.

The Hurricanes led at half-time but were outscored 24-5 in the second half.

The Blues were gifted an early try when Devan Flanders threw a loose pass, allowing Dalton Papalii to intercept and score.

But the Hurricanes responded almost immediately through Asafo Aumua, who crashed over in the fifth minute.

A pair of late Jordie Barrett penalties saw the Hurricanes lead 11-7 at the break, but the Blues quickly responded after the interval.

Otere Black's great kick found Caleb Clarke in the corner down the left before Stephen Perofeta also scored to put the Blues up 21-11.

Aumua went over again for the Hurricanes, but the Blues sealed their win through Rieko Ioane with four minutes remaining.

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