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 Chiefs won 36-26 over the Rebels but missed out on the bonus point they craved to keep alive their realistic Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final hopes at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney on Sunday.

The Hamilton-based side needed a bonus-point victory against the winless Rebels to have any firm confidence in overcoming top pair the Blues and the Highlanders ahead of the final round of fixtures next weekend and raced to a three-try lead in the first half.

Anton Lienert-Brown crossed twice, including a superb 20th-minute solo try, with fly-half Kaleb Trask also touching down for the Chiefs inside the first 25 minutes to open up a 19-0 lead.

The Rebels showed fight to respond with three tries of their own before half-time, with a double from forward Isi Naisarani and one from Stacey Ili squaring the game up at the break.

Chase Tiatia came off the bench to score a second-half double, while Trask got his second for the Chiefs in the 52nd minute.

Winger Andrew Kellaway crossed for the Rebels who had a 70th minute George Worth try disallowed for obstruction.

The result moves the Chiefs to 14 points ahead of their final-round game against Waratahs, with the Blues and the Highlanders in the top two spots on 19 and 18 points respectively. The Rebels remain winless.

The Hurricanes made it two wins from two in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman as they scored five tries in a bonus-point defeat of the Rebels.

Julian Savea (two), Billy Proctor and Wes Goosen all crossed for the home side in Melbourne in a clinical 35-13 victory on Friday.

The Rebels, who lost prop Cabous Eloff to a 16th-minute yellow card, were only 11 points down at the break thanks to a Matt To'omua penalty sandwiched between tries from Savea and Proctor.

Michael Wells reduced the deficit further three minutes into the second half, the flanker touching down in the corner at the end of a clever passing move.

Savea scored his second of the match only for Campbell Magnay to give the visitors hope, but two further tries in seven minutes from Goosen and Asafo Aumua at last killed the contest as Jordie Barrett finished spotless with the boot.

The Highlanders also earned their second win in the Trans-Tasman competition as they won 25-15 against the Western Force in Perth.

There were 30 points scored in a frenetic first half, the Highlanders cruising ahead through tries from Jona Nareki, Ayden Johnstone and Scott Gregory before Tomas Cubelli reduced the arrears.

The second half proved a more attritional contest as the men from Dunedin showed real discipline in their defending. They won 63 of 63 rucks and 10 turnovers in the match, while only giving up nine penalties.

A second Gregory score 19 minutes from time put them firmly in control until replacement Angus Wagner went over in the dying moments for the Force, who lost narrowly to the Chiefs last week.

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 Waratahs failed to avoid the ignominy of a winless Super Rugby AU campaign as they fell to a 36-25 loss to the Rebels.

A miserable 0-8 record was confirmed on Saturday as the Tahs were beaten by the Australian conference's second-bottom side, despite the Rebels having two men sent off in Sydney.

It took just 33 seconds for the hosts to get that sinking feeling as Stacey Ili touched down after collecting Matt Toomua's precise cross-field kick.

To their credit, the Tahs promptly hit back with a pair of Ben Donaldson penalties to suggest a close contest may be on the cards.

Even after Michael Wells' converted try restored some comfort for the Rebels, the dismissal of Isi Naisarani for a high tackle handed the home side fresh impetus.

Mark Nawaqanitawase and Jack Maddocks both dotted down to capitalise, with the Rebels clinging to a 21-18 half-time lead after a brace of Toomua three-pointers.

The visitors made light of their numerical disadvantage, Rob Leota diving over off the back of a maul, although Carlo Tizzano was quick to respond with a try of his own.

That proved to be the Tahs' last score, though, and the Rebels added gloss through Toomua's penalty and a late Matt Gibbon try.

There was still time for Pone Fa'amausili to see red for a driving his shoulder into the head of Max Douglas, but the 13 men saw out the remainder of the game without further incident.

The Western Force snatched a dramatic 16-15 victory over the Rebels on Friday as the home side failed to capitalise on their dominance at AAMI Park.

Despite enjoying 65 per cent of the possession and more than twice as many passes and carries, the Rebels were thwarted by their own lack of cutting edge against a rigid rearguard.

Force then made them pay with the only try of the contest in the 78th minute, Tim Anstee touching down after a rolling maul and Domingo Miotti adding the extras.

Matt Toomua's penalty had given the Rebels a 15-6 lead midway through the second half but a further kick that struck the upright proved a costly miss in an error-strewn contest.

Miotti also missed a kick prior to the visitors' critical try, before a last-gasp wayward drop goal attempt from Reece Hodge brought the contest to a frustrating end for the Rebels.

It was a 10th successive Super Rugby meeting between the sides decided by a single-digit margin.

And the Rebels are now just a point ahead in the Super Rugby AU standings as the battle for semi-final places hots up.

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.

 

Matt Toomua contributed 18 points as the Rebels piled more misery on the winless Waratahs in a 33-14 victory at AAMI Park.

New South Wales are bottom of the pile in Super Rugby AU with just a single point, although they belatedly showed some fight on Friday.

All 14 visiting points came in the final five minutes, but a rare fast Melbourne start had long since taken the game away from the Waratahs, who have now equalled their worst Super Rugby run against Australian opposition with four straight defeats.

The Rebels had conceded just one first-half try in the 2021 competition, the fewest of any team, but also scored only one. By the break on Friday, they had crossed twice more.

Toomua kicked the first points from the tee after five minutes and the breakthrough try soon followed as Lachie Anderson crashed over from close range.

There were two more penalties from the boot of Toomua, before the fly-half ended the opening 40 minutes with a superb solo try, chasing his own kick to cross in the corner.

With Melbourne comfortable, their star performer was replaced after 51 minutes and Reece Hodge assumed kicking duties, adding a fourth penalty prior to Jordan Uelese touching down in what appeared a routine second half.

The result was never in doubt - a third Rebels win in four against the Waratahs - but NSW enjoyed some late cheer at least, twice picking apart their opponents for Jeremy Williams and Jack Maddocks to score in quick succession.

The Rebels held on despite a second-half red card to defeat Western Force 10-7 and claim their first win of the Super Rugby AU season.

Two narrow losses, including a heartbreaking defeat to the Brumbies last time out when Ryan Lonergan scored after the final siren, meant they came into the contest second bottom in the standings.

Force, meanwhile, had enjoyed an upset win over the Waratahs but could not record back-to-back-victories on Friday and have now been overtaken by the Rebels.

A try from Lachie Anderson, who crossed down the right wing after a patient team move, was the only score of the first half as the Rebels went into the interval with a five-point advantage.

When a superb burst from Marika Koroibete set up Joe Powell to cross for the Rebels just after the hour mark, it looked like it was game over.

But there was a frantic final 11 minutes, which began when Jack McGregor darted over in the corner for the home side after collecting a loose ball, with Ian Prior converting to cut the gap to three.

Rebels lock Ross Haylett-Petty was then promptly sent off for a high and direct hit on Tomas Lezana.

Force threw everything at the visitors in the final stages but, having spurned the chance to kick a late penalty and level the contest, they could not find a way over the line. 

Ryan Lonergan's sensational kick after the siren sealed a 27-24 win for the Brumbies over the Rebels on Saturday.

The replacement scrum-half set up Tom Banks for a late try before scoring the winning penalty four minutes into additional time.

The unbeaten Super Rugby AU champions trailed 12-10 at half-time and had captain Allan Alaalatoa sent off for dangerous play moments before the interval.

However, the Rebels could only get on the scoreboard through immaculate kicking from Matt To'omua as they failed to turn their man advantage into tries.

To'omua kicked four penalties to give the Rebels their lead at the break after Len Ikitau's 20th-minute try following a Noah Lolesio grubber.

A penalty try handed the home side a boost eight minutes into the second half, but it looked as though ill-discipline would prove their undoing as To'omua's faultless kicking gave the Rebels the edge.

Then came Lonergan's divine intervention. Banks received his clever pass and dived beneath the posts, with Lonergan's conversion making it 24-21.

To'omua's eighth penalty of the contest levelled the scores with four minutes to go, only for Lonergan to have the final say, launching the winning kick through the posts from distance to spark wild celebrations in the nearby dugout.

The Brumbies stay top of the table and have now won 18 of their past 19 home games.

In the opening contest of the weekend, the Western Force likewise had to survive with 14 men on Friday as the visitors held firm to beat the Waratahs 20-16 in Sydney.

Hooker Dave Porecki's fifth-minute try and eight points from the boot of Will Harrison gave the home side a 13-0 lead, but that advantage was cut to three points in the space of four minutes, Jake McIntyre converting Fergus Lee-Warner's score before kicking a penalty.

Tim Anstee snuck over the whitewash but the Force were left with a battle on their hands after Andrew Ready saw red for swinging a punch during an off-the-ball clash.

Harrison squeezed over a penalty to cut the deficit to a point with seven minutes left, but Ian Prior stretched the lead to four in the closing moments as the Force saw out their first win since 2017.

Alex Mafi pounced for two second-half tries as the 14-man Reds snatched a dramatic 23-21 win over the Rebels in Super Rugby AU.

The hooker scored either side of team-mate Feao Fotuaika being sent off, while captain James O'Connor added the extras to both tries and booted three penalties.

Mafi's second try came in the 77th minute, but there was still almost a late twist when the Rebels were handed a last-gasp penalty, only for Matt Toomua to steer his kick left of the posts.

Toomua booted four first-half penalties to two from O'Connor as the Rebels took a 12-6 lead into the break, both fly-halves also missing a kick at goal.

Toomua kicked the Rebels further ahead at the start of the second half, but the Reds responded as Mafi ducked in to find a way to the line from the back of a driving maul.

O'Connor's conversion made it a two-point game, although Reece Hodge then kicked a penalty to give the Rebels more breathing space.

Fotuaika was sent off in the 57th minute for cleaning out Richard Hardwick with direct contact to the head.

O'Connor and Toomua traded penalties before former Melbourne Storm star Suliasi Vunivalu looked to have made a sensational entrance on his union debut for the Reds, the code-switching Fijian sprinting to chase what looked a lost cause.

He wanted a try, but video replays showed Joe Powell had nudged the ball dead before Vunivalu reached it.

Mafi, though, would not be denied. He sold a dummy and sliced through a group of white shirts to dive over and level the game.

O'Connor put the 14 men in front by adding the extras, before the Rebels had their one last shot at goal, Toomua off target from long range.

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