WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Moana Pasifika pulled off a stunning upset by beating the playoff-bound Brumbies 32-22 in the last match of their inaugural season in Super Rugby Pacific on Saturday.
The first-placed Blues earned a second straight win with a last-gasp dropped goal in Sydney, and the Western Force stayed in the playoffs picture after upsetting the Hurricanes 27-22 in Perth.
The Blues clinched first place last week and will play the Highlanders or the Western Force in a quarterfinal in Auckland next weekend. The Highlanders can clinch the last playoff berth ahead of the Force if, on Sunday, they beat the Melbourne Rebels or even earn a losing bonus point.
Moana Pasifika lost captain Sekope Kepu to a red card for a high tackle after only 11 minutes of his 150th Super Rugby game.
Undeterred, the last-placed side scored two tries while with 14 men, before they were able to replace Kepu under tournament rules allowing a red-carded player to be replaced after 20 minutes.
The Brumbies scored almost immediately after Kepu's dismissal, through hooker Connal McInerney from a rolling maul. But Moana Pasifika surged back with tries to Willy Havili and Joe ’Apikotoa and didn't relinquish the lead.
Peter Samu's try in the final minute came too late from the Brumbies, who retain a home quarterfinal but dropped a place to fourth.
“What a finish,” Kepu said. "I haven't got any words, I'm just so proud of the boys. It just shows that when we express ourselves, we're physical, we're elusive and we've got X-factor.”
In Sydney, fullback Zarn Sullivan kicked a dropped goal a minute after the siren sounded for the Blues to beat the New South Wales Waratahs 20-17 and notch a record 13th win in a row.
Lock Luke Romano scored a try with six minutes remaining to give the Blues the lead before the Waratahs tied it.
Earlier, winger Mark Nawaqanitawase scored a pair of tries seven minutes apart to give the Waratahs a 14-10 lead.
The Waratahs will play the Chiefs next weekend in New Zealand in a quarterfinal.
The Force trailed the Hurricanes 17-6, but rallied thanks to tries bridging halftime by front-rowers Santiago Medrano and Andrew Ready, after a head knock, to lead 20-17.
Fullback Josh Moorby, who scored a brace in the first half, set up wing Salesi Rayasi, back from the sin-bin, for the Hurricanes to get back in front 22-20.
But with five minutes to go, center Bryon Ralston went over for the Force's key fourth win in 14 games.
Earlier, the Fijian Drua came close to finishing their first season with a victory but lost to the Chiefs 35-34.
The match was played in front of a packed house at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji. Every inch of the ground was filled and spectators occupied every tree or other vantage point to see what turned out to be one of the most compelling matches of the season.
The Chiefs led 35-13 with only 14 minutes remaining, and they must have felt the job was done in hot, humid and sapping conditions.
The Drua launched an extraordinary comeback, scoring three tries in the last 10 minutes to make the match a cliffhanger.
“I thought we’d played our one and only get-out-of-jail-free card against the Rebels a couple of weeks ago but it turns out we’ve got two,” Chiefs captain Brad Weber said. “We just feel a sense of relief more than anything. Man, hats off to the Drua.”
Roared on by the crowd, the Drua hit back first with a magnificent counterattacking try to Kalaveti Ravouvou and added another five minutes later to Apisalome Vota. The stadium erupted when replacement prop Timoci Sauvoli scored a converted try under the crossbar with a minute left on the clock. But they ran out of time.
“In a few years, this is going to be a seriously tough place to play, especially for New Zealand teams,” Weber said. “It’s about one degree (Celsius) in Hamilton and you come over here and it’s 30 degrees with humidity, so it’s not easy.”
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