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 Hurricanes made it four wins from five in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman as they defeated a luckless Reds 43-14 in Wellington on Friday.

There were just three points separating the sides approaching the hour mark before the Hurricanes made the most of clinical scoring and good fortune to ease to victory.

The Reds had nearly 60 per cent of the possession and 637 carries to their opponents' 564 but saw crucial moments go against them as they suffered a fourth defeat in five games.

Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape's try opened the scoring but Tate McDermott's converted score levelled the contest after Tyrel Lomax had been sin-binned for a high tackle.

Jordie Barrett's penalty gave the 14-man Hurricanes a 10-7 lead at half-time before the Reds lost Filipo Daugunu to a contentious yellow card, with Ruben Love touching down soon after.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa powered over after some intense forward pressure but Dane Cole's try following a soft lineout began the Hurricanes' late surge.

Laumape was awarded a penalty try after he and Bryce Hegarty chased a kick, the referee showing the latter yellow after ruling he had deliberately hit the ball over the line to prevent a score.

Replacement Devan Flanders and a second from Coles in the final nine minutes further punished the men from Queensland.

The Highlanders secured what could be an important 33-12 bonus-point win over the Brumbies that boosted their play-off hopes.

Aaron Smith scored two tries and assisted two more in a match in which the Highlanders scored 19 unanswered points in the second half.

Len Ikitau broke the deadlock for the Brumbies but Smith, Ash Dixon and Billy Harmon put the visitors in control in Canberra, despite Lachlan Lonergan also going over.

Patelesio Tomkinson got the crucial fifth try as the Highlanders held off some late pressure to make it five wins from five ahead of the final day of home-and-away matches.

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.

Jordie Barrett missed two late penalties as the Hurricanes lost their 100 per cent Super Rugby Trans-Tasman record, slipping to a 12-10 defeat to the Brumbies after the Highlanders had hammered the Waratahs.

The Hurricanes' hopes of reaching the final were rocked at GIO Stadium, where the Brumbies held on to secure their first win of the competition on Saturday.

Brumbies scrum-half Ryan Lonergan crossed for the opening try in Canberra, but Jason Holland's side led 10-7 at half-time courtesy of a Dane Coles score and five points from the boot of Barrett.

Len Ikitau put the Brumbies back in front with their second try 12 minutes after the break and the visitors had a late Alex Fidow try ruled out for a knock-on.

Barrett was then off target with a penalty from the halfway line in the closing stages and the New Zealand international was unable to win it from the tee with the last kick of the game.

A second victory for an Australian franchise in the tournament leaves the beaten Hurricanes in fourth place and looking likely to miss out on a place in the final, with just one game of the regular season to come, which is against the Reds next Friday.

A ruthless Highlanders team had no such trouble in Dunedin, thrashing the struggling Waratahs 59-23 to sit in second place - a point behind the Blues and ahead of the Crusaders on points difference.

They ran away with it in the second half, scoring 26 points without reply after going in at the interval with a 33-23 advantage.

There were doubles for Ethan de Groot and Jona Nareki in a nine-try rout, while Mitch Hunt booted 14 points.

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.

The Hurricanes earned a third consecutive bonus-point victory as they thrashed Western Force 43-6 on Friday in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.

Teams from New Zealand now hold an 11-0 record over their Australian counterparts after the rampant Hurricanes ran in seven tries without reply in a one-sided encounter.

It was their biggest ever win over Western Force, who have suffered three consecutive defeats to start the competition.

The Force opened up an early six-point lead with two Domingo Miotti penalties, but they were obliterated from there.

Asafo Aumua capitalised on a lineout mistake from fellow hooker Andrew Ready to score an impressive solo try.

That opened the floodgates as wing Salesi Rayasi scored in acrobatic fashion and it was 19-6 at the break after Du'Plessis Kirifi dotted down.

It was game over as the hosts secured a bonus point seven minutes after the interval when Wes Goosen, who was constantly threatening, went over in the corner.

Rayasi added his second try of the match and a miserable day for the struggling Force was compounded in the last 10 minutes.

They saw a potential try ruled out due to an obstruction call before Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett - who finished with 13 points - added gloss to the scoreline at the other end.

"I thought we had one of our better performances of the year," stand-in Hurricanes captain Reed Prinsep said.

"A more complete package in attack and defence. Those backs are pretty special talents. As a forward, when you see that happen, you're pretty proud."

Force skipper Kyle Godwin, meanwhile, rued mistakes from his side.

"We were our own worst enemies, the Hurricanes are a classy outfit and they pounced on our mistakes," he said.

"We didn't trust ourselves enough, we do have the attacking threats. We've got the Crusaders next so a lot to review and improve on. I felt like the boys went into their shells and we can't be doing that."

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.

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 Hurricanes beat the Waratahs 64-48 in a 17-try thriller and the Highlanders hammered the Reds as Super Rugby Trans-Tasman got under way on Friday.

Julian Savea and Billy Proctor claimed doubles as the impressive Hurricanes scored 10 tries in a pulsating contest, which saw the two sides rack up over a century of points at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Savea opened the scoring with an early try to help his side go in at half-time with a 33-24 advantage, Proctor dotting down twice either side of scores from Jordie Barrett and Dane Coles.

Alex Newsome, Angus Bell and Jake Gordon crossed for the Australian team in the first half as defensive frailties were exploited at both ends of the pitch.

Savea finished again early in the second half in a try-fest before Brayden Iose, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Pepesana Patafilo and Asafo Aumua got in on the act, while Barrett was on target with seven of his conversion attempts.

Harry Johnson-Holmes scored two of the beaten Waratahs' four second-half tries during what was an incredible contest.

Super Rugby Trans Tasman | Waratahs v Hurricanes - Rd 1 Highlights

The @Hurricanesrugby needed 10 tries to see off the @NSWWaratahs on Friday night, as Super Rugby Trans Tasman served up a 17-try shootout in Sydney.#SuperRugbyTT #WARvHUR pic.twitter.com/LulSssUJrv

— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) May 14, 2021

The Highlanders' victory completed a double for the New Zealand franchises after the Reds were beaten 40-19 in the other fixture.

Ash Dixon scored a try in each half at Forsyth Barr Stadium following an early score from Scott Gregory. Sio Tomkinson, Liam Coltman and Ngatungane Punivai also went over.

Suliasi Vunivalu claimed a brace of tries but the new Super Rugby AU champions came back down to earth with a bump following their title triumph.

New Zealand legend Owen Franks is returning to his homeland to join the Hurricanes on a two-year deal.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner moved to England in 2019 for a spell with Northampton Saints.

Former Crusaders prop Franks is on the move again after deciding to resume his Super Rugby career.

"I'm excited to be getting back into Super Rugby next year with the Hurricanes after time in the UK," he said.

"My family and I are looking forward to a new challenge and being back in New Zealand and closer to friends and family is also important.

"I am very motivated to play at the highest level again and I am looking forward to working with the Hurricanes players and coaching teams and pushing for success in 2022 and 2023."

Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland said of Franks: "His record speaks for itself and what he has been able to achieve is a measure of his quality and professionalism.

"Owen's experience will be invaluable, not just for the younger players in our squad but our group as a whole."

Franks played 108 times for New Zealand in a stellar Test career.

James O'Connor wrested victory from the clutches of the Brumbies as his late try gave the Reds a stunning 19-16 win in the Super Rugby AU final.

The dramatic intervention came in the 85th minute, with the Brumbies down to 13 players and desperately defending their line after Darcy Swain and Henry Stowers were sin-binned.

Kalani Thomas picked the ball up from the back of a maul near the try-line and fed a pass to O'Connor, who skidded over between two Brumbies players to thrill the large crowd inside Suncorp Stadium.

It gave the Reds revenge for their loss to the Brumbies in the 2020 final, and saw the Reds follow up finishing top of the regular season this time around by landing the trophy they longed for, a decade on from their last Super Rugby title.

O'Connor scored all the Reds' points, with his four penalties keeping the home team in touch before he added the late try and capped it with an immaculate conversion, the last act of the match.

A third-minute kick from O'Connor had nudged the Reds ahead, but Tom Banks capitalised on great play from Noah Lolesio to nudge the Brumbies in front 10 minutes later.

Lolesio added the extras and two penalties before half-time, with O'Connor also booting a further penalty for the Reds, as the Brumbies led 13-6 at the break.

O'Connor missed a penalty early in the second half but then proved more precise from his next two shots at goal, either side of Rob Valetini being sin-binned in the 61st minute for a high tackle on Jock Campbell.

Lolesio gave the Brumbies a 16-12 advantage for the closing stages after the Reds were penalised for an offside, but despite Valetini returning to the field, the men from Canberra were soon in trouble.

Swain was yellow-carded in the 78th minute for collapsing a maul, and Stowers followed him off moments later.

The Reds were denied a try by the referee and match official after claiming they had rolled across the line, but they still had the energy and momentum, and fly-half O'Connor seized the moment when the ball reached him to the left of the posts, darting in to snatch glory.

The Crusaders extended their Super Rugby dominance as Richie Mo'unga made three late clutch kicks to secure a 24-13 win over the Chiefs in Saturday's Aotearoa Grand Final.

For a fifth successive year, the Christchurch giants finished as champions in their competition, having been limited to all-New Zealand clashes in the last two seasons due to the pandemic.

The Chiefs, who finished bottom of the pile last season, defied expectations to reach this final at Orangetheory Stadium, but they could not take advantage of the Crusaders having two players sin-binned in the second half, briefly leaving them down to 13 men.

The underdogs made a disappointing start as they failed to prevent Mo'unga finding Sevu Reece to dot down the opening try after six minutes. Mo'unga added the extras, before Damian McKenzie pulled back three points with a penalty on 14 minutes.

Almost immediately, however, Will Jordan dashed through to gather David Havili's kick and nudge the Crusaders 12-3 ahead.

McKenzie was fed by a back-of-the-hand pass from Alex Nankivell as the Chiefs crossed in the 20th minute, continuing the barnstorming start to the match, and his conversion made it a two-point game.

That was the end of the try-scoring, however, as it became a match settled by the kickers, with Mo'unga slotting a penalty before half-time, which arrived moments after McKenzie missed the target.

McKenzie also squandered penalty chances twice early in the second half, as yellow cards in quick succession for Reece and Codie Taylor left the home side under-manned.

Belatedly, McKenzie found his range and hauled the Chiefs back to 15-13 as heavy rain fell, but Mo'unga showed nerves of steel to slot a drop goal in the 64th minute, and he added penalties in the 69th and 76th minutes to crush the challenge of the men from Waikato.

Toni Pulu was red-carded against his former team as defending champions the Brumbies beat the Western Force 21-9 to set up a Super Rugby AU final against the Reds.

The semi-final at GIO Stadium on Saturday was well poised with the holders 7-3 up when wing Pulu was dismissed for a dangerous tackle on Len Ikitau.

Pulu could have no complaints, having caught Ikitau in the face with his shoulder, and his early exit in the closing stages of the first half proved to be costly.

Domingo Miotti's penalty put the Force in front, but Tom Wright crossed in the corner soon after at the other end for a try converted by Noah Lolesio.

Tom Banks then finished on the stroke of half-time to rub salt into the Force's wounds after Pulu's departure.

Fly-half Miotti reduced the deficit to 12-6 when he was on target from the tee early in the second half, but Lolesio booted the Brumbies back into a nine-point lead.

Wright had what he thought was his second try ruled out after a replay showed his foot was in touch in-goal as he touched down, but two penalties from Ryan Lonergan gave the Brumbies breathing space.

Dan McKellar's side will face the Reds in the final at Suncorp Stadium next Saturday.

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