If Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa has taught us anything in 2021, it’s that the grand finals will be amazing and always beware a team with a nothing to lose mentality.
The weekend saw the Reds and the Crusaders have their dance partners confirmed, along with some referee hilarity, NFL influences and one of the most random pitch invaders you’ll ever see.
Buckle up, because things are getting bumpy.
Wright stuff for Brumbies
Super Rugby AU qualifying final
Brumbies 21, Force 9
History was made at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
The Force played in their first ever finals game, while the Brumbies trotted out for their 24th.
The result was predictable in the end, but boy oh boy did the underdogs fight and scrap for every inch.
The first half was a real arm-wrestle, with the Brumbies thumping away in the Force 22, only for ill-timed errors or defensive turnovers preventing them from scoring points.
READ MORE: Rebels reveal new coach for trans-Tasman comp
READ MORE: Cheika blows up after game turning red card
READ MORE: Crusaders sign controversial Pumas captain
Having seen the Brumbies turn down numerous kickable shots at goal, Tim Sampson’s men took their first shot and scored the unlikely first points in the 34th minute.
But you should never stand behind a horse, because if they kick, you are in strife.
Which is exactly what the Brumbies did in immediate response, with two great team tries, finished off by Tom Wright and Tom Banks respectively, while the Force grappled with a red card issued to Toni Pulu for a high tackle.
Force rocked by red card
There were a couple of light-hearted moments amongst all the seriousness though, with a grubber kick from Folau Fainga’a hitting a Brumbies trainer who was trying to treat an injured Pete Samu.
Assistant referee Amy Perrett got in on the act a few minutes later, by comically losing grip while raising her flag which forced it to fly onto the field, similar to what you’d see in the NFL.
Stan Sport’s eagle-eyed commentator Andrew Mehrtens was quick to exclaim: “Flag on the play!”
As the pressure of the latter stages took hold, the Brumbies decided to take more shots at goal, eventually claiming a hard-fought victory and a date with the Reds on Saturday, in search of back-to-back titles.
The gallant Force get a week’s rest, before getting ready to start their Trans-Tasman campaign in Perth against the Chiefs.
Super Rugby Aotearoa
Hurricanes 41, Highlanders 22
Over in Wellington, the Hurricanes hosted the Highlanders in what a lot of people had labelled a ‘dead rubber,’ as the sides sat fourth and fifth on the table.
Someone forgot to tell Hurricanes captain Dane Coles though.
Not only does the camera clearly love Coles, but so too does the referee’s microphone.
As Ben O’Keeffe removed a yellow card from his pocket midway through the first half, Coles asked “what’s that?” with all the innocence of a preschooler.
Upon being given that yellow card, along with the Highlanders’ Mitch Hunt, Coles replied: “We’re just having a bit of fun, mate.”
Not surprisingly, his plea was unsuccessful, as both players spent 10 minutes in the sin bin.
The game was summed up as being ‘entertainingly niggly,’ but there were some fantastic tries laid on by the likes of Ngani Laumape, Salesi Rayasi, Jona Nareki and exciting fly half prospect Ruben Love.
Late in the match, the world famous Wellington wind even blew an empty KFC bucket on to the ground, as O’Keeffe instructed to “get that bucket of chicken off the field.”
The Hurricanes won handily in the end, but it was nice to see the Highlanders’ Nehe Milner-Skudder return from a myriad of injuries to play against his former team.
Black destroyed in monster hit
Blues 39, Chiefs 19
There were plenty of glimpses towards a bright future at Eden Park on Saturday.
The Blues took on the Chiefs in Aotearoa’s first ever women’s Super Rugby match, in what is predicted to become part of a new era for the women’s game in the southern hemisphere.
The game itself was an exciting spectacle too, with the Chiefs running out 39-12 winners in a hint of what will hopefully come over the next few seasons.
In the men’s game, the already finals-bound Chiefs fielded a team of backup players, while the Blues scattered in a few development players who hadn’t seen much game time this year.
There was some good potential on display, as the Sullivan brothers – Zarn of the Blues and Bailyn of the Chiefs -showed some exciting ability, involved in numerous line breaks and try-scoring movements for their respective teams.
With nothing but pride on the line, the Blues started to take control in the second half, led by All Blacks No.8 Hoskins Sotutu.
Sotutu was strong throughout as well as laying on a try assist and an NFL quarterback style pass over Chiefs defenders which laid on a late try for the home side.
The Chiefs now travel to Christchurch for Saturday’s grand final, while the Blues ready themselves to travel to Melbourne, as they take on the Rebels in a fortnight.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!