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Magic Moana Pasifika stun bewildered Brumbies

William Havili of Moana Pasifika celebrates after scoring a try during the round 15 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the ACT Brumbies at Mt Smart Stadium

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 28: William Havili of Moana Pasifika celebrates after scoring a try during the round 15 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the ACT Brumbies at Mt Smart Stadium on May 28, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Moana Pasifika beat Brumbies 32-22 in a forward dominated Super Rugby Pasifika contest at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland.

Moana Pasifika pulled off a spectacular four-tries-to-three upset over the Brumbies to claim a famous victory in the City of Sails.

Aaron Mauger’s men overturned an early deficit to take a halftime lead they would not relinquish.

Mauger’s side powered to a second win of the season after matching the opposition’s forwards and taking their chances.


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The Pacific islanders still finish on the bottom of the SR table, but this is a fabulous way to end a tough, Covid affected campaign.

The Brumbies have lost their last three Super Rugby matches after losing only one of their previous 11 games.

Dan McKellar will be worried about his team’s late-season dip in form, especially with the playoffs beginning next weekend.

The three-time Super Rugby champions will still host a home quarter-final because of a fourth spot finish on the log.

The Brumbies will play either the NSW Waratahs or Hurricanes in Canberra.

The forwards dictated the outcome of the match, but some flyhalf magic by Moana clinched the game

This game saw the competition’s best set-piece versus the worst, but Moana more than held their own.

In fact, their set-piece won them the game as the Brumbies blew hot and cold in the tight phases.

Both teams scored two tries apiece from driving mauls, while a red card and two yellows were also shown to forwards in a game dominated by both packs at different stages.

Moana had lost their previous 10 Super Rugby Pacific matches, and things did not look good when they had their inspirational captain Sekope Kepu sent off.

However, they fought back to earn a well-deserved victory to close out their maiden SR campaign. Onwards and upwards.

William Havili, Joe ‘Apiokotoa, and Lotu Inisi all crossed for the islanders, who were also awarded a penalty try.

Christian Leali’ifano marshalled his troops with authority and the veteran standoff was instrumental in the win.

Leali’ifano kicked two penalties and conversions apiece (10 pts), but his most critical play came late in the game.

With time ticking down, the Brumbies camped inside the home team’s red zone A turnover lead to the flyhalf booting a 50/22 from inside his own 22.

The 50/22 led to the match-sealing score from Inisi with less than a minute remaining.

Connal McInerney and Lachlan Lonergan both scored from driving mauls. Pete Samu scored his 23rd Super Rugby try after the hooter, but the game was done.

Noah Lolesio added two conversions and a drop goal to keep his side in the hunt, but the hosts pulled away in the final quarter.

Moana Pasifika took a deserved 12-point lead into the shed despite having Sekope Kepu sent off early

Moana Pasifika scored 19 unanswered points to lead by 12 points at the break despite having skipper Kepu red-carded in the 11th minute.

Kepu, playing in his 150th Super Rugby match, ran out with his children to a standing ovation.

The 36-year-old prop hit Andy Muirhead with a dangerous high tackle around the neck, and the officials had no option but to send the veteran off.

The Brumbies dominated the early stages. The Pacific islanders leaked penalties, and turnovers and their set-piece was a mess as Scott Sio pulled apart Kepu.

McInerney flopped over the whitewash two minutes after Kepu’s sending off to give the visitors a deserved lead.

‘Apiokotoa comes on for Kepu and turned the game around with some big scrumming and mauling.

The game changed in the second quarter as Moana’s forwards began to dominate their shell-shocked opponents.

The mounting pressure told as Mauger’s forwards dismantled the McKellar’s much-vaunted maul with two tries from driving mauls as the hosts took control

Havili slid over the line after another tap-and-go penalty caught the Brumbies off guard.

Jonathan Taumateine spotted the fullback open with acres of space after the Aussies got sucked in near the poles.

A superb driving maul ended with ‘Apiokotoa crashing over for his second Super Rugby try.

The Australians were reeling despite having the extra man. They conceded seven penalties, while the islanders had 71% possession.

Leali’ifano pulled a penalty just after the half-hour which kept the Aussies ahead.

The hosts, back to a full quota, had the Brumbies on the ropes.

For 15 minutes of the red card period, Moana had 96% possession, and the Brumbies had to make 53 tackles to none in that time.

McKellar’s side, under the pump at the end of the half, made too many mistakes and gave away too many penalties in the red zone.

McInerney went off after infringing at the ruck which sparked two cards in two minutes.

Then Brown brought down the maul illegally before the try line. The referee awarded a penalty try and promptly sent Brown to the naughty step.

The Australians managed the two yellow cards expertly. They slowed down the game and played in the opposition’s half while they ran down the clock.

All the good work done by Moana Pasifika’s forwards came to nothing when they lost a throw inside their 22.

The Brumbies pounced with a Lolesio drop goal to make it 19-10.

The Brumbies get their maul going again as they cut the deficit, but their continued ill-discipline allows Moana to keep ahead

Leali’ifano added a penalty to re-open the two-score advantage, but the tourists had the momentum.

The visitors went close but Pete Samu dropped the ball as he attempted to score by the flag.

It did not matter because Lachlan Lonergan crashed over after a powerful driving maul. Lolesio converted to make it 22-17 on the hour.

The Aussies paid the penalty for more discipline issues. Leali’ifano re-opened another two-score lead with 17 to play.

Moana defended their lives in the final quarter-of-an-hour, repelling wave after wave of attacks.

McKellar’s men camped inside the home team’s 22, but mistakes proved costly, especially when the Aussies lost a 5m lineout late in the contest.

Enter Leali’ifano, whose sensational 50/22 effectively sealed the deal.

Moana won a turnover from a botched Brumbies’ scrum and scored from the next set-piece to clinch a famous victory.

Final Score: Moana 32 (19) Brumbies 22 (7)

Scorers

Moana
Tries – Havili, ‘Apiokotoa, Penalty try, Inisi
Pen – Leali’ifano (2)
Con – Leali’ifano (2)
Drop –
Cards – Kepu (Red, 11′)

Brumbies
Tries – McInerney, L. Lonergan, Samu
Pen –
Con – Lolesio (2)
Drop – Lolesio
Cards – McInerney (Yellow, 39′), Brown (Yellow, 41′)

Match Officials
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: James Doleman
Assistant Ref 2: 
Jono Bredin
TMO: Aaron Paterson

Teams

Moana Pasifika: 15 William Havili, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Jonathan Taumateine, 8 Henry Time-Stowers, 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Solomone Funaki, 5 Sam Slade, 4 Michael Curry, 3 Sekope Kepu (captain), 2 Ray Niula, 1 Abraham Pole.

Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Joe ‘Apiokotoa, 19 Sione Tuipolotu, 20 Lotu Inisi, 21 Manu Paea, 22 Fine Inisi, 23 Anzelo Tuitavuki.

Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 Scott Sio.

Replacements:
16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Rory Scott, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Rod Iona, 23 Hudson Creighton.

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