Moala injury-time try seals Tens for Blues

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Saturday, February 10, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Hurricanes had dominated the game but determined Blues defence minimised their chances and their only score was to Alex Fidow who went round the front of an early lineout for a try.


With by far the majority of position, and possession, the Hurricanes having played an extra game were always vulnerable and it was the Blues who finished best with Akira Ioane scoring with four minutes left after going around the short side of a ruck to score in the corner.

The Blues got back onto attack, put pressure on through their scrum and gained a penalty after the fulltime hooter. Jonathan Ruru took the tap and fed Moala into the short side. He was tackled short of the line but put the ball down and reclaimed it to drive over for the winning try.

They had been the most consistent side in the series, Caleb Clarke had topped the try scoring list with five during the tournament while several lesser lights in their squad made big impacts.

In the first semifinal the Blues beat the home team 22-10. The Reds latched onto a pass from Orbyn Leger for Jayden Ngamanu to clear out for a runaway try. But almost from the restart a break from Jordan Trainor set up a chance for Sam Nock and he raced in beneath the posts.

A neck roll by Reds captain Samu Kerevi gave the Blues a chance to attack from a lineout deep in opposition territory. It took two attempts and finally it was hooker Jordan Olsen who got the ball back from the lineout to go over just before halftime for a lead of 12-5.

Starting the second half well, the Blues mounted significant pressure and on the short side it was Kurt Eklund who got over in the corner.
Carrying the ball back over the goal-line proved costly for Caleb Clarke and from the scrum the Reds tried three times to get over the line and finally it was Andrew Ready who scored.

The Reds tried to get back into the Blues 22 but they couldn't secure the ball and the Blues cleared downfield and in the resulting play Dalton Papali'i was able to build on good work by Hoskins Sotutu to score the winner.

Demonstrating how much they had improved through the tournament, the Hurricanes turned around their 0-22 pool loss to the Crusaders to beat them in their semifinal 14-10.

Jamie Booth had an outstanding game scoring both the Hurricanes tries, the second a fine chip and chase effort which gave his side a 14-5 lead at halftime.

Crusaders captain George Bridge responded to the first try by getting into a gap and racing 75m to score. In the second half Manasa Mataele scored, but that was all the Crusaders could muster against the determined Highlanders defence.

Earlier, it was a strong second half effort that made the difference for the Hurricanes to beat the Waratahs 35-24. Up 14-7 at the turn, Peter Umaga-Jensen and Du Plessis Karifi scored within two minutes to force the Waratahs into catch-up mode. They pulled back two tries but Malo Tuitama made things safe for the Hurricanes to advance with their last try.

Defending champions, the Chiefs, exited in the quarterfinals, beaten by home team the Reds, 19-7. Solomon Alaimano scored first for the Chiefs but Angus Blyth avoided the gaze of the TMO when stepping on the sideline while scoring his first try and he scored again halfway through the second half with Isaia Perese finishing off the Chiefs chances with the final try for the Reds.

The Blues, who finished as top qualifiers with automatic entry to the semifinals, rounded out their pool with a 29-7 win over the Rebels to be unbeaten. They punished the Rebels early when they lost Henry Hutchinson to the sin bin for an early tackle on Orbyn Leger, scoring two tries through Clarke, who would score three in the game, and Tanielu Telea, while he was off.

Olsen and Clarke made it four for the half to take a 24-0 lead to the break.

Dom Shipperly scored for the Rebels after Michael Tamoaeita was sin binned early in the second half but the Blues defence tightened and when restored in numbers they used their scrum to blow the Rebels off the ball and create an easy chance for Clarke's third.

The Highlanders were not so fortunate, having found themselves down 0-17, including a first try which saw former Highlander Jamie Mackintosh effect a turnover, after an earlier turnover by Steffon Armitage, to create a try for Paddy Butler. Giovanni Habel Kuffner and Baptiste Pesenti scored.

Tevita Li benefited from a non-call of a foot clearly on the sideline earlier in the play to score the only try for the Highlanders, who succumbed to playing catch-up firing interceptable passes and after one Frank Halai scored to give Paul their winning advantage.
The Chiefs avoided a hiccup when the Waratahs opted to level the game when attempting a penalty goal in the dying seconds. The ball rebounded back into the field off a goal post and the Chiefs claimed a 15-12 win.

They looked sharp early as Jonathan Taumateine raced 80m to score after a Lachlan Boshier turnover but big Waratahs wing Taqele Naiyaravoro pushed off Charlie Ngatai to run in and level the scores.

Tries to Solomon Alaimalo and Lachlan McWhannell before halftime proved crucial in the final outcome for the Chiefs, although the Waratahs got back into the game when Mack Mason chipped ahead and got the rebound to score.

In completing their pool play having conceded only one try, the Crusaders punished Fiji at the breakdown to claim a 17-0 win.

Brett Cameron did some fine lead-up work on the break to create the chance which saw the opening try to Jone Macilai and then the side combined to produce one of the finest tries of the pool play with interpassing play completed by Richard Judd with the try.

More success at the breakdown by Ethan Blackadder resulted in the final try for Tom Christie sitting out in the backline with the Fijians fully stretched.

Alex Fidow proved the saviour for the Hurricanes scoring twice when lurking with menace on the flanks, once in each half as they beat the Brumbies 12-10.

The Brumbies had scored first through Jordan Jackson-Hope and after the Hurricanes secured a 12-5 lead they got back through Faaleilei Sione's try when James O'Reilly was in the sin bin.

The Brumbies threw everything at the scoreboard but were unable to score and exited the competition.