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Wow!! What a game we have witnessed at Allianz Stadium where one team in the Reds got away with a really good start going into half-time 19-0. Then another team in the form of the underwhelming Waratahs began to pick up plenty of unanswered points where they were oh so close, having closed in at 24-24 all before successful two point conversion puts them in front at 26-24 for a short time. However, a late penalty goal from halfway by Tom Lynagh for the Reds fortunately gave their away fans a huge sigh of relief with the one point win in Moore Park by 26-27. Reds clearly booked in 5th where they will most likely take on the Chiefs once again in Hamilton next weekend while the Waratahs ended up last following a very difficult 2024 season.

Fraser McReight once again outstanding that puts the Reds on the map for a couple of winning occasions throughout the year on the openside 7. Not only he’s so dangerous smashing the opposition while backing up with the backline via his pace and superior passing but also brilliant to break down defensively too including the latter stages needed to stop the Waratahs from slipping away come full-time. There’s unfinished business ahead in the hope he can be the best 7 for both club and country going forward & next weekend’s last eight v the Chiefs away in Hamilton is the perfect time to do it & play semi-finals.

Josh Flook is another important Reds player who we should keep an eye on after an excellent display last night in the midfield outside 13. He’s the man that never stops running & also loves to score tries off the back of a great first half performance with one TRY to himself thanks to some excellent communication in the attacking third. Yes, we could’ve seen him score his 2nd when things didn’t go their way while seeing the Waratahs 2nd half comeback that almost came back to bite his team. But he was happy to accept the win & Josh needs his full support, so he can unleash his attacking abilities in the hope of going one better by beating the Chiefs again next weekend.

Finally, Jack Bowen has been exceptional when being given the keys to start in the Waratahs 10 position, particularly when he played a key role in his team’s resurgence after half-time of one TRY & three successful conversion kicks. Okay, he might have missed the very last penalty kick which was so unlucky. But Jack knows where to hack it when looking to expand into the wide areas on the counter attack with the numbers he’s got around him and voila! Let’s hope he will benefit from good competition that will make him a better player under a new coach going into next season. For now, he will look to help his 4th placed Easts side have a solid run in the Shute Shield show soon enough.

And shoutout with thanks to Darren Coleman on getting the Waratahs get back on track such as back to back 6th places including two Crusaders wins this year as if it’s 2014 again but sadly injuries hit him the most & we wish him good luck.

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Moana Pasifika might have taken advantage of the opposition team’s slow start but it’s the Crusaders who has been smashing it to fill the first half’s play 26-10 off the back of Codie Taylor’s double TRY as well one from Ethan Blackadder and Ryan Crotty (his last home game) on top of a few successive kicking conversions by the outgoing Fergus Burke (England bound later this year to Saracens).Nothing much was going on after half-time other than more continued Crusaders dominance at last like it was before following a transitional and difficult season. Tries coming from Noah Notham, Dallas McLeod and Macca Stringer helped extend their lead to 43 points while Moana were unable to turn things around at all. The final score belongs to the Crusaders fair and square to wrap up the regular season 43-10 v Moana Pasifika at Apollo Projects Stadium in Christchurch. 

Ethan Blackadder even though he had some injury troubles before wasn’t shy at all by physically smashing the Moana Pasifika on the openside Crusaders No.7 tonight in Christchurch. He was simply doing the hard years every time the winning penalties & possession gave him a chance to help open that door & fish those big points including one for him while Ethan kept a great eye as being tested defensively. The good news is that he will stick around next year alongside several now first year group of youngsters & continue to be at their best like it was before that produced lots of silverware. Looking ahead to the future and let’s hope the Crusaders can keep on rebuilding to hopefully be No.1 again is 21-year-old left winger Macca Stringer. Sure he has learnt a lot from the likes of Sevu Reece & Johnny McNicholl with lots of energy to burn and seeing him picking up the pieces to process the TRY off McNicholl later in the 2nd half was unbelievable. As said, it’s not easy settling in right away when so many big players move on as it does take time before going next level. However, he’s the next best thing to come out the Crusaders talent factory – look out for him in 2025 & maybe a bit longer if he keeps on improving well for the All Blacks shirt.

For now, we’ll wait and see if the Rebels can give them a second chance tomorrow for next week’s finals as long as they can beat the Fijian Drua away in Suva. And Lotu Inisi continues to showcase his magic for the Moana Pasifika No.8 jersey, even though it wasn’t an easy night as a whole team when the Crusaders were too good. He was so onto it with the ball every time including earlier in the first half off a winning penalty line-out before he threw an unreal inside pass to his brother Fine (both tall & quick!) & there you go with the TRY! Shame they couldn’t stop the Saders in its tracks while picking up plenty of ill-discipline as Moana have improved in some way on their third year even though there’s still a long way to go to be Top 6-8.

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Even though the Melbourne Rebels had a great season that would mean a first extended go in the Super Rugby finals next week depending on their regular-season finale performance in Suva this Saturday v Fijian Drua after Week 15, unfortunately the new consortium group involving ex-directors just didn’t prove to Rugby Australia that they can make them financially viable to bring back from the dead and not fall into the red once again as instead the Rebels will not be back playing next year with their last game coming up next month. There’s nothing anyone can do about it when the club entered this season under huge financial uncertainty and despite this, they managed to do so well with a really strong squad they’ve got over the off-season while the Waratahs had lots of injury clout that reflected yet another worst ever season & the Force still very unlikely to make just inside the Top 8 when you got the Drua (win and you’re in) and Crusaders (win and see Drua lose) in front of them.

We feel very sorry for the Rebels administrative staff, players and coaching staff who have to suffer this difficult announcement like this where some will be moving to another Super Rugby club here like the Waratahs (Andrew Kellaway already onboard with a few more looking to follow him soon) and Force or else head overseas. It doesn’t mean everyone should hate the Rebels when they first entered Super Rugby back in 2011 but their on-field performances have been mostly mediocre for so long combined with them running as insolvent in recent years when RA first controversially cut the Western Force back in late 2017 – only for the Force to return a few years later off the back of COVID & South African teams leaving for Europe full-time.

It doesn’t mean that RA will stop investing community and grassroots rugby within the Melbourne and Victorian area despite the Rebels shutdown with more home-grown players coming through which isn’t going away any time soon but for these kids to play for either of the four Australian Super Rugby clubs at some point in their careers after high school or juniors U-16 to U-19s level with Rugby Victoria. For example, loose forwards Rob Valetini and Pete Samu whom are both born and bred in Melbourne, both also grew up there & ended up moving interstate later on (Valetini to Brumbies & Samu to Sydney/Brisbane).

We also hope to see that the ACT Brumbies and even NSW Waratahs (both teams wouldn’t be mergers to Melbourne after all – don’t stress) could play some of its games there at AAMI Park from next year if that can be done too but you never know when the annual Super Round might be heading elsewhere at the same time. At the end of the day, RA is unable to support their senior talent pool of players up to five teams financially as said above where they will field four Australian teams next year consisting of the Brumbies, Reds, Waratahs and Western Force – with no replacement team elsewhere like the Jaguares in place of the Rebels to make up 12 teams & will instead go with 11 teams in the next Super Rugby instalment for now. Let’s hope they can make it count with more than just the Brumbies so our Australian Super Rugby teams can have a really strong campaign against the New Zealand teams that would mean a great extended Finals campaign and most importantly, a strong Wallabies performance at last in a long time in order to win back both the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup.

What does it mean for the Western Force? They’re also beginning to build a good group of experienced players too other than Nic White onboard this year thanks to the ownership of Andrew Forrest, with his ex-Brumbies team-mate Darcy Swain expected to join soon after the season is over for the second row department alongside two brilliant hookers like Nic Dolly and Brandon Paenga-Amosa from Europe. But again, they’re a team who still hasn’t yet had a full Super Rugby finals campaign before that goes way back to when the Force first started in 2006. If they don’t continue to make much progress in the next few years regardless of how much money being thrown here and there, then they would be better off either expanding into Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong or Singapore on top of Perth (they can continue some of the games there), merge with Sunwolves if Japan wants to play Super Rugby again (also doesn’t mean they shouldn’t leave Perth altogether with some home games like the PNG link up suggestion) or else play in a different competition. The NRL is about to give PNG their 18th team soon, so no doubt Twiggy can have a look at the growing PNG market just like the other Pasifika hotspots such as Fiji. It doesn’t mean that the work of developing and producing more of the homegrown talent is to be missed/overlooked where he can get some of the best PNG league players to play for the Force alongside the experienced & youth players in Super Rugby.

For now, this weekend and next weekend is all about the Rebels putting their best show as they possibly can to go out with their head held high. They can make the Crusaders make Finals possible if they can beat Fiji on their home turf to finish 6th spot before going all in regardless of their final result against any of the Top 3 sides like the Brumbies, Blues or Hurricanes.

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It’s been an unforgettable moment to savour from Olympiacos on home soil in Athens tonight in the 2024 Conference League Final while Fiorentina fell short once again – even though the one and only goal took a bit longer to settle by the VAR. It was eventually confirmed as successful during the 2nd extra time period where Olympiacos’s main striker Ayoub El Kaabi was the hero with the winning goal after a quiet run by the two teams for nearly the whole 100-115 minutes up until this point. 

Now Olympiacos have won this trophy for the first time with head coach Jose Luis Mendilibar securing his 2nd major European honours after he got Sevilla home via penalty shootouts last year v AS Roma in the Europa League Final (1-1 with 4-1 in penalties). Olympiacos also won the UEFA Youth Cup a few weeks v AC Milan 3-0 as the last time they won a European trophy other than the Greek Super League & Greek Cup was back in 1963 with the Balkans Cup. Congratulations to them who kept the Italians quiet, especially in defense before they did enough to get the job done with the only and only goal at extra time. Next up is for them to dominate the league again for the first time in a while after they last won back in 2021-22.

Who knows? It could be with Mendilibar or a different coach. And to be a bit personal, let’s hope now ex-West Ham coach who helped beat Fiorentina last year David Moyes can take over a club that might be struggling domestically mid-season but also still the in running via the Europa League & try to win a trophy there. We’ve seen this happening before with Rafa Benitez back in 2013 at Chelsea in the Europa League for a short time as there’s not many out there & take over to finish off the job.

Meanwhile, heartbreak from Fiorentina once again who made it this far to hopefully go one better after they lost the first time 2-1 by West Ham last year. They just couldn’t make the most out of their conversions when the game dragged for so long before it was too little, too late. It’s tough to swallow yet again when the Italian Serie A team will have to attempt this for the third time next season after they finished 8th in the league where they won’t be able to reach anywhere towards the Europa League radar now maybe with a new coach as 46-year-old Vincento Italiano might want a new challenge elsewhere.

Two big finals done with Atalanta finally shut down Bayer Leverkusen’s unreal 51-game winning run last week in the Europa League Final and now Olympiacos winning the Conference League Final, there’s one more to go heading into Saturday night/Sunday morning here for the Champions League Final between Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium.

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Week 14 of the 2024 Super Rugby Season ended with a rare Sunday afternoon game at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand, between the hosts Highlanders and visitors Fijian Drua. The first half belongs to the Highlanders fair and square 18-0 with two tries and penalty goals whereas the Drua despite showing some attacking threat couldn’t get themselves over the in-goal line. 2nd half might have seen Drua at last register the one & only points off the penalty goal. However, the boys from Dunedin continued to hammer them with more tries on the board that the home supporters was so happy to see, with Finals expected to be around the corner thanks to their huge win 39-3. Now bring on the regular season finale next weekend where it’s going to be a tight race to secure the 8th & final spot before we look ahead to the three-week Finals starting Friday June 7.

There is one man who is great at overcoming adversity such as an ACL knee injury two years ago followed by a foot injury last year and his name is Jona Nareki who plays on the Highlanders left wing. He has electrified the team this afternoon with his excellent pace having been supported by his numbers up front that reflects his two-try performance v Fijian Drua. Let’s hope he can kick on & stay injury free as his side is now ahead of the Rebels in 6th thanks to the bonus point win with the Hurricanes next on Saturday. Then there’s another attacking Highlanders player you need to know and it’s Jacob Ratimaitavuki-Kneepens from the back at No.15. He’s someone who is tall, never stops running & also kicks around having injected the extra dimension his side was after with one TRY for himself earlier on while he played a key  influence for his wingers by his side like Nareki and Timoci Tavatanawai. He’s come from a long, long way where he learned so much after being around Waikato & the Blues setup with finals now being well & truly locked in to have an extended run from here.

And 20-year-old No.10 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula just became the second Fijian Drua player to reach 100 points after he scored the one and only three-point penalty goal earlier in the 2nd half. He’s got the mobility and creative eye at 5 ft 9 in that gave the most out of the Drua’s attacking chances on occasions including a great start earlier on where his side were almost there to lead the Highlanders in Dunedin. It’s unfortunate that the Drua couldn’t get the job done before they struggled to stop on its own that reflected such a huge defensive mess where the Highlanders had a great sigh of relief & they too have been exceptional in return as he needs their huge home support to get the Drua going with pride ahead of the Rebels on Saturday.

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Queensland Reds fans just enjoyed another brilliant night on home turf tonight at Suncorp Stadium having been well secure to play Finals this year outside the Top 4 in 5th following an easy win v Western Force 59-13. From the start, the Force had some glimpses with a couple of penalty goals to chip it in even though an attempted TRY at the stroke of half-time was unfortunately denied by the TMO referee due to a knock-on as the Reds collected a couple of big points along the way 22-6.

Then nothing much changed later on where the Reds continue to extend their lead including the completion of another good hat-trick story from Tim Ryan while Fraser McReight scored back-to-back tries in quick succession. Force might be the the last to close out the game with the one and only consolation seven-point TRY whose heavy loss tonight puts them in a difficult position to try and just make the Top 8 when they will fly back home to face the Brumbies next Saturday night but the winner goes the Reds way ahead of the regular season finale meeting on Friday v Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney following their loss last week that isn’t easy for away teams to play in Fiji v the Fijian Drua. We still got one more game to go to finish off Week 14 of 15 with the rare tomorrow match in Dunedin between the Highlanders v Drua, then the 6th-8th places will remain open for one last time other than the Top 5 teams that are well and truly confirmed up the ladder before it’s Finals time.

Tim “The Junkyard Dog” Ryan loves scoring tries for fun having became an instant favourite amongst the fans for the Reds this year on the right wing following his hat-trick performance tonight. He is someone who has blistering pace who can do anything dangerous with the ball on hand as long as he’s got his numbers there to set up towards the finish line for him and what a talent Queensland has got in their talent production line at Ballymore!! Then we look at another of the Reds’ finest home-grown talented players in none other than Fraser McReight on the openside back row at 7 where he made such a huge difference such as nailing down defensively while being able to score some tries too. This is the man who is also well established in the Wallabies squad as he will look to make the No.7 green and gold shirt of his own in the years to come in place of veteran Michael Hooper but for now, he’s here to help Reds win games every week & with previous finals experience on his belt, he believes that his side can achieve even more beyond the last eight like the ACT Brumbies do all the time.

And versatile back Bayley Kuenzle is the jack of the all trades after he finished the Force’s difficult night on a high not long before full-time with a late TRY and also a conversion kick too. He’s happy to get as much game time as he needs having been in Perth for three years now after he grew up in Sydney and then played for the Brumbies that reflects his important skillsets at Super Rugby level, so he can learn to improve in order to get better and better with the likes of Nic White and soon Darcy Swain from next year again would help him achieve his next personal best. For now, there’s still a long way to go where the Force despite some promising signs earlier on haven’t been good defensively while picking up ill-discipline for the most part.

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Last night was such a thriller between the Melbourne Rebels & Chiefs at AAMI Park with the Rebels got the first TRY while Chiefs make up the most of their maximum points via penalty goals and the one TRY. The half-time score was Rebels 11-13 Chiefs. Second half saw the Chiefs extend their lead thanks to their advantage despite having the first TRY attempt being knocked on by the TMO.  Although the game wasn’t over just yet when the Rebels make up back-to-back tries in quick succession where they almost gave a win for everyone supporting at home after they were 23-23 all for a bit, but then an unfortunate lost penalty with only 1-2 mins on the clock saw the Chiefs seal another penalty kick with the win 23-26. Chiefs stay in fourth on the ladder for now while Rebels hang on 6th with another one bonus point going into Rounds 14 and 15.

Damian McKenzie is the Chiefs main man who can get the extra dimension into play with an outstanding knack of kicking into the two posts at 10. Great to see him pass on some good leadership skills that puts his Chiefs team on the map even including under advantage so they can get the job done as being tested with his creativity and direction in attack & sure he still has lots to offer where his spotless kicking conversions has saved the day with the narrow win v a threatening Rebels team. Next up is Chiefs’s No.12 at inside centre/second five-eighth Quinn Tupaea who put in an excellent physical battle to help his side stay ahead. Glad to see him unpack that powerful grit through the Rebels’ wall where the rewards paid off including at the maul en route to his team’s 2nd TRY as if he’s one of the team’s superheroes & he will keep on doing this to win from here. The Chiefs were so relieved to win this game thanks to a great start but then they need to watch out and take advantage with the ball under pressure where they were almost run over by the Rebels. They may be in the Top 4 for now where hosting the home Finals is crucial like it was before but have a tough task ahead with Hurricanes on Friday & then Blues to finish up Round 15. 

And how good was Lachie Anderson when he almost guided the Rebels home 23-23 all until a lost late penalty saw Damian McKenzie seal a successful penalty kick for the Chiefs win by three points, with two tries on the board throughout the 2nd half on the right wing. His speed skills isn’t without question who can get things done quick smart – as seen with the sevens circuit in the past as well as his XVs career where he spent the last few years playing for the Rebels in Melbourne & he’s improved so much with so lots more to come if he keeps on bagging tries like this. Speaking of the Rebels, they’ve come from a long, long way having played so well by dominating the pitch for the majority, but unluckily lost if it wasn’t for the inconsistent play as still no word if they will be back playing next year. There is still two games left & maybe a bit more when it comes the Quarter-Finals with the ACT Brumbies in Canberra next Friday before they will finish off the regular season in Fiji against the Drua .

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The last four weeks of the 2024 Super Rugby season saw some great success with the New Zealand teams still going strong minus the Crusaders still unluckily, while the Australian sides have proven that they are up to the challenge that would make a huge difference to their upcoming Wallabies campaign later this year with three more regular rounds to go.

Then it’s all about Finals Footy once again to round off the season campaign after this from the quarter-final followed by the semi-finals and the Grand Final.

New Zealand teams

The Blues recently became unstoppable having just surpassed the Hurricanes on top of the ladder yesterday as they just got the Highlanders, Crusaders & Chiefs to go, which shouldn’t be too hard to go into the Finals with plenty of optimism for a fourth title. Hurricanes as said haven’t done too bad at times without Cameron Roigard but still had some tough times against Blues yesterday & the Brumbies two weeks ago in Canberra, let’s see if they can hold keep on winning where Moana Pasifika should be easy while Chiefs & Highlanders is a bit difficult.

Chiefs also had some easy wins in recent weeks against the bottom 3-4 teams & the race is on for the Waikato side to hopefully get the job done that might be a bit challenging starting with the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday followed by the Top 2 teams (Hurricanes & Blues). Meanwhile, Highlanders recovered well from their worst trip v Reds (31-0) in Round 9 by putting themselves back in the Top 8 at 7th with some good wins even though it wasn’t pretty. Yes, things are going to get difficult when facing the Top 2 sides other than Fijian Drua in Round 14 but sure they can cause a storm like it was before. 

And last but not least the Crusaders who got themselves another win in Christchurch two weeks ago v Rebels 38-0 with some great improvements to see at times. However, time is running against them as they really need to win big, which won’t be easy against Brumbies & then Blues other than easy finish v Moana Pasifika to hopefully make the Top 8 just in time after Round 15.

Australian teams 

ACT Brumbies are still high and flying bar the Blues loss back in Round 9 as they still sit 3rd with an easy run-in that would hopefully give themselves a good Finals run and then end the drought to take home the trophy. Queensland Reds on the other hand returned to winning ways other than also a close Round 10 loss v the Blues. Now the run-in might look a bit difficult when the Drua is so strong on the home front while they got a few being injured but then you got the Western Force at home followed by the Waratahs again shouldn’t be too hard to seal a good run-in v Chiefs or Brumbies in the Quarters.

Western Force also has a great strong home atmosphere off the back of wins against the Crusaders back in Round 9 & the Fijian Drua last night, which puts them back on track towards an outside possibility of playing Finals footy with the Waratahs next up followed by Reds away & then the Brumbies after that. Then don’t know what to say about the NSW Waratahs when they are at their lowest ebb once again with so many being injured other than two lucky wins v the Crusaders with more losses going against them. The only positive I can say that they’ve put in their best effort to hopefully get themselves up first at the finish line, but then they’re last right now with two difficult games to finish it off (Force & Reds) other than Moana Pasifika.

And the Melbourne Rebels are still hanging in 6th with three tough games to go with two being at home, such as the Chiefs on Friday followed by the Brumbies and then the Drua away in Fiji. It all depends on the other results but they will still make it even it means an extra week of playing considering the Crusaders are still struggling with the Waratahs going way worse. Then the big question mark is whether or not if the Rebels will be back next year & beyond who is still broke despite recent on-field success? We still don’t know when you got a businessman-led consortium group ready to save the club from liquidation but then the powers of Rugby Australia has the final say at Rugby HQ with still no resolution to either stay or go at this stage.

Pasifika teams 

Well, Moana Pasifika had their moments earlier during the season where they were flirting with the Top 8 bubble a few times here & there. However, a recent string of losses meaning they will unfortunately miss out as progress will take a bit more time before Moana can start winning more games from here; They got the 2nd-placed Hurricanes next up followed by the Waratahs & Crusaders, even though all of their final three regular season games are going to be played within New Zealand.

Same goes with the Fijian Drua who always have an outstanding home atmosphere in Lauktoka, Fiji like the Force bar the Hurricanes loss back in Round 9. They might be able to play another week of Finals this year depending on other results with the next two games being at home against the Reds & Rebels other than the Highlanders in Dunedin but their away form still much leaves to be desired which is gonna bite back to haunt them including the 48-10 loss v Force last night in Perth. That is going to be their next big step alongside a new head coach with Mick Byrne agreeing to step up with the national team soon.

Post-notes

2/3rd in with three regular weeks to go as the race for 6th-8th is still on where we could still see an odd upset or two on top of the continued Australian teams’ winning progress & the battle for 1st & 2nd between the Blues and Hurricanes, with the lone Australian side Brumbies and the Chiefs being the outside favourites as they’re all locked up with the QF hosting rights.

While the Reds will surely end up in 5th, The Rebels and Highlanders would most certainly be a given as the Waratahs are unable to improve anytime soon with more injury hit-lists in the treatment room. And who is going to claim 8th?

It’s going to be between the Drua, Force and Crusaders – with the Crusaders hopefully getting the last remaining Finals spot, even though things weren’t the best where lots of new guys have a huge job to fill after so many people including a few big-name players and even the head coach in Scott Robertson getting the All Blacks job have came and gone in the off-season.

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Week 12 of the 2024 Super Rugby Season saw the best of the best teams take on each other during the twilight Saturday at Eden Park in Auckland, which was the 2nd best Blues hosting the leaders Hurricanes from Wellington. The first half saw Bryce Heem kickstarting the match with the early lead for the home side while the Canes were so good at bouncing back along the way as Blues lead 14-10 despite another late Hurricanes where they didn’t make the best of their conversion kicks.

Yes, that weakness might have finally changed when the Canes scored back-to-back tries in quick succession after the break to hold the lead for the first time. Unfortunately, that was short lived with the Blues going on to reclaim the top spot and then extending it with more tries on the board including a penalty goal later in the 2nd half. The door might not be closed just yet when the Hurricanes continued to bounce back that sets up a wild snail race to the finish line but then it was too little, too late with little time remaining to snag a late match-winning TRY as the Blues win at home by only four points in Auckland, 31-27.

Bryce Heem launched the Blues attack wide open on the inside centre at 12 that puts his players on the front foot earlier on including a TRY for himself. Gotta say he’s still up to it against the best of the best in Super Rugby v Hurricanes, having started for nearly the whole time & sure he still has unfinished business for his Blues side to dominate the entirety of this season (both the ladder and grand final) at 35.  Next up is another experienced Blues player in Angus Ta’avao who made an immediate impact to frustrate the Hurricanes during the 2nd half off the bench as the reserve front rower. He’s the perfect man to weather the storm where the Blues were able to get the extended lead under his watch before he and the Blues were able to escape in a race against time after they successfully kicked into touch with a four point win at home. The Blues now lead the Super Rugby ladder with three rounds to go as they will be back at Eden Park next Saturday night v the Highlanders in the search of their fourth title since 2003 & these two key players are here to guide them all the way & get another trophy.

And Peter Lakai did his best to push his Hurricanes over the line on the openside back row at 7 with excellent fight to keep the Blues in check. He too can get the job done as well as being able to stop the Blues in his tracks that reflects his brilliant potential. Yes, the Canes were unlucky to scrape past the Blues as the clock ticks down; but they just couldn’t take advantage of their 1st half performance even when the opposition had 14 men before they walked on eggshells towards the end which sadly didn’t end so well. They might have a bit of an easier run-in since the Hurricanes are well & truly safe into the Finals despite losing top spot now to the Blues. Moana Pasifika (9th or 10th placed) is next up on Friday night as interesting to see if they can keep on winning even without Cameron Roigard when playing v Chiefs & even Highlanders (both again) after that.

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So there we have it, it’s great seeing a Australian Super Rugby team taking the win on New Zealand’s turf and it’s the Reds who won v the Crusaders in Christchurch for the first time in 25 years that goes back to Round 5 in 1999 at the old Jade Stadium 23-36. The first half saw the Reds off to a flying start where they were leading 7-14 at half-time despite the one late Crudsaders TRY, with back-to-back tries from Fraser McReight & Tim Ryan. 

Then the 2nd half was a high scoring one as the Saders cancelled Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen’s early 2nd half TRY where they were level on points 21-21 after two quick tries in quick succession. But a series of late 2nd half sloppy mistakes went the Reds way which proved so costly, even though a late comeback wasn’t enough to nail them down as the clock ticks down to full-time. Although the Crusaders do take home the one bonus point, but again, this game has to be the Reds moment who has now beaten both 2023 finalist in the Chiefs and now Crusaders as they leapfrogged the Melbourne Rebels (coincidentally will be their next game) to 5th on the ladder with four rounds to go. Final score was 28-33.

Gotta say that Reds Number 8 Harry Wilson is sending the message to Joe Schmidt (new Wallabies coach) as to why he has unfinished business after his terrific performance v Crusaders on their turf in Christchurch. He wouldn’t mind bulldozing defenders one bit with the ball on hand as being tested at scrum & line-out time and it seems like he’s better at 1 v 1s as if he’s an individual athlete with a really tall stature, having deflected David Havili’s kick at his danger zone that went his way for the Reds try himself to stop the Saders from stealing the lead. 

Meanwhile, look out NZers as “The Junkyard Dog” Tim Ryan made such an instant impact from the minute he made his Super Rugby debut for the Reds last week at age 20 v Blues. He continues to cause problems like a sprint track athlete where no one couldn’t stop him this time with two tries against the Crusaders. He’s also a bit over 6ft tall similar to Max Jorgensen at the Waratahs as both can play anywhere in the backline – they’d even be a dangerous combo in the hope Joe can fast track Tim in the green & gold shirt like Max sooner rather than later. Great to see the Reds continue on the winning track in recent weeks (3-in-row now) following their big moment for the first time in 25 years in Christchurch with plenty of optimism ahead & they will be playing Melbourne Rebels next up at Suncorp Stadium (home turf) on Friday. 

And Quinten Strange has been breaking the Reds down in order for his Crusaders to find their way through the gate on the second row at No.5. He credits these winning penalties so he can get his head down with a mix of strong steel and really towering eye that puts them back in contention during the 2nd 40 including one for himself to tie the lead. Yes, they were unlucky to fall short as they can still just make the Top 8 with four rounds left, but a poor start including a number of errors later on saw the Reds win instead.

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