Dramatic Last-Minute Try Shakes Up Super Rugby Pacific Playoffs

A last-minute try by Waikato Chiefs' Josh Ioane secured a top spot for the Wellington Hurricanes in the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs. The Auckland Blues, despite winning their match against the Chiefs, missed the crucial bonus point. The Hurricanes will now host the Melbourne Rebels in the quarter-finals, while the Blues will play the Fijian Drua.

Reuters | Updated: 01-06-2024 15:07 IST | Created: 01-06-2024 15:07 IST
Dramatic Last-Minute Try Shakes Up Super Rugby Pacific Playoffs
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A last-minute try from Waikato Chiefs back Josh Ioane handed the Wellington Hurricanes top spot and home advantage throughout the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs as the most competitive season for many years came to a dramatic close on Saturday.

The Auckland Blues needed a bonus point win over the Chiefs at Eden Park to top the table ahead of the Hurricanes on point difference and were well on their way when forward Akira Ioane bagged their fifth try of the game in the 64th minute. They needed three tries more than their opponents to secure the all-important bonus point and would have been confident even after Quinn Tupaea crossed for the Chiefs' second five-pointer in the 68th minute.

The Chiefs, despite having no chance of winning the match and having nothing but pride to gain, kept battering away at the Blues defensive line before replacement back Ioane sliced through to score his side's third try in the dying seconds. The Blues deservedly won the match 31-17 on the back of their powerful pack and number eight Hoskins Sotutu's 10th and 11th tries of the season but that was little consolation for the stunned home players.

"We can be happy with the win but our goal was to win with a bonus point and unfortunately we didn't do that," said captain Patrick Tuipulotu. "That's very disappointing for us."

Winger Salesi Rayasi had earlier scored a hat-trick of tries as the Hurricanes downed a resilient Otago Highlanders 41-14 in the New Zealand capital to ensure the battle for top spot would go down to the penultimate match of the regular season. The Hurricanes will now host the Melbourne Rebels in what could be the Australian team's final Super Rugby match next weekend, while the Blues will welcome Fijian Drua to Eden Park for their quarter-final.

Wins for the top two mean the ACT Brumbies will finish third regardless of the result of their match against the Western Force in Perth later on Saturday and they will host the Otago Highlanders in Canberra next week. The Chiefs will play the Queensland Reds in Hamilton in the first quarter-final next Friday.

Earlier, Drua locked up the final spot in the playoffs with a bonus point 40-19 victory over the Rebels in front of a partisan crowd at Churchill Park, Lautoka. The win secured seventh place in the standings for the Pacific islanders and ended the playoff hopes of the reigning champion Canterbury Crusaders and the Force.

The Rebels, whose demise at the end of their 14th season was confirmed on Thursday, finished eighth to earn a chance to extend the life of the franchise for a couple more weeks in their maiden playoff campaign. The Crusaders, Super Rugby champions for the last seven seasons, had needed a victory in their final match combined with a Drua defeat to avoid missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

They put the first part of the jigsaw puzzle in place on Friday night with a 43-10 bonus point win over the Moana Pasifika in Christchurch, which ended the playoff hopes of their opponents. The Queensland Reds finished their regular season in Sydney on Friday with a narrow 27-26 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs, who finished bottom of the standings with two wins from 14 matches.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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