Hurricanes top Super Rugby final standings but Crusaders ousted

rugby01 June 2024 10:00| © AFP
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Salesi Rayasi celebrates with Billy Proctor © Gallo Images

The Hurricanes are the top qualifiers for the Super Rugby Pacific play-offs but perennial powerhouses the Crusaders were eliminated in a dramatic end to the regular season on Saturday.

The Hurricanes lead the second-placed Blues by one point on the standings after a dramatic finish to the match in Auckland, where the Blues needed a bonus-point win over the Chiefs to claim the top spot.

They were on course to achieve that until Chiefs replacement back Josh Ioane crossed for a try in the final minute, denying the Blues a bonus point in their 31-17 victory.

Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu felt let down by the outcome after his side dominated the contest, boosted by two tries by in-form loose forward Hoskins Sotutu.

"We can be happy with the win but our goal was to win with a bonus point," Tuipulotu said.

"Unfortunately we didn't do that, so that's very disappointing for us - it's not enough to just play in patches."

Earlier, winger Salesi Rayasi crossed for a hat-trick as the Hurricanes brushed past the Highlanders 41-14 in Wellington, playing the fast-paced style that has carried them to 12 wins from 14 games.

TJ Perenara was also among the try-scorers, although there was concern when the veteran scrum-half limped off with a knee injury.

The quarterfinal schedule next week has the Hurricanes at home to the eighth-placed Melbourne Rebels, while the Blues will host the Fijian Drua.

The third-ranked Brumbies will face the Highlanders in Canberra and the fourth-placed Chiefs will meet the Reds in Hamilton.

The seven-time defending champion Crusaders were ousted when the Drua overwhelmed the Rebels 40-19 in Lautoka.

The Drua took command with three tries early in the second half, ending any chance of the Crusaders extending their seven-year run of titles, all achieved under the new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson.

The Christchurch-based side have failed to fire under Robertson's successor, Rob Penney.

Friday's 43-10 win over Moana Pasifika was just their fourth of the season and came too late as they failed to advance to post-season play for only the second time since 2001.

Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge released a statement saying a "full performance review" would be conducted but didn't single out Penney for criticism, saying no "rash decisions" would be made.

Despite losing, the Rebels have done enough to qualify for their first finals match in their 14-season history.

It could also be the last game they play after Rugby Australia rejected a private bid to take over the debt-laden club and said on Thursday it would be shut down.