Brumbies crash New Zealand party in Super Rugby semis

rugby08 June 2024 14:00| © Reuters

Brumbies hit their straps in the second half to overcome the Highlanders 32-16 in Canberra on Saturday and join the Hurricanes, Blues and Chiefs in the Super Rugby Pacific semifinals.

The Australians will be the sole non-New Zealand outfit in the last four of the competition for the third straight year as they hunt a first Super Rugby title since their heyday in the early years of the century.

Their next assignment is a trip to the graveyard of Australian rugby, Eden Park, on Friday to take on the Blues, who earlier earned their spot in the semifinals with a 36-5 victory over Fijian Drua.

The Hurricanes beat the Melbourne Rebels 47-20 in Saturday's first quarterfinal to drop the curtain on the 14-year existence of the Australian outfit.

They will host the second semifinal next Saturday against the Chiefs, who blitzed the Reds 43-21 in Hamilton on Friday.

No Australian side has won a playoff game in New Zealand in 28 years of Super Rugby and the Brumbies will need to be a lot better than they were in the first half on Saturday if they are to have any chance of beating the Blues.

The Highlanders dominated the scrum and played physical, per centage rugby before winger Jona Nareki tore through a string of tacklers to score a 33rd-minute try and put the visitors 16-10 ahead.

Two tries from Brumbies hooker Billy Pollard in four minutes around halftime turned the deficit into a 22-16 advantage, however, and winger Andy Muirhead secured his own brace with a second score of the highest quality after 47 minutes.

The Highlanders kept to their task but flyhalf Noah Lolesio kicked a penalty in the 64th minute to give the Brumbies enough of a cushion to see out the contest.

"First half was really tight and we fixed a few things at halftime and came out firing, which was pleasing," said Lolesio.

"Finals footy is never perfect footy but it's great to get the win."


In Wellington, five tries after the break helped the Hurricanes pull clear of a Rebels side playing in the playoffs for the first time in the team's final season after their demise was confirmed earlier this month.

"It was our goal from the start of the year to be the greatest ever Rebels team, to make the finals," said Rebels skipper Rob Leota.

"We’re really proud of that first half but you've got to do it for 80 minutes and the Canes did that."

In Auckland, winger Caleb Clarke scored the first of his two tries as the Blues raced to a 22-0 lead after 35 minutes against a physical but error-prone Drua side that had not won on the road all season.

Fiji winger Selestino Ravutaumada triggered a Drua fightback with a mazy run for a try three minutes into the second half and for a while the visitors grabbed the momentum.

The Blues never recovered their dominance but replacement hooker Kurt Eklund scored a try and Clarke scythed through the defence to grab his second to snuff out any hope of an upset.

"It's finals footy now, it's the best teams now playing for the end goal, and that's to win the whole thing," said Blues flanker Dalton Papali'i.

"Week by week, we've got to turn up."