This article was originally published on Stuff and is reproduced with permission
No pressure, Highlanders. A surprising misstep by the Hurricanes in Perth on Saturday night has left the Southerners tasked with sneaking into the last spot in the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals on Sunday.
The Force needed to win this regular season finale to give themselves a shot at eighth place, and did so by upsetting the Canes after a late try from midfielder Byron Ralston and an excellent defense under pressure in the closing minutes.
That puts the 4-10 Western Australians currently one point ahead of the Highlanders in eighth place, while the Southerners need to collect something from their last game against the Rebels in Melbourne on Sunday to earn a quarter against the blazing heat. hot Blues this Saturday night in Auckland.
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Not much was at stake for the Canes when the match started, with the men from the capital in fifth place and a quarter-final visit to the Brumbies in Canberra. It also showed somewhat, with a subpar performance that interspersed moments of class with much significantly less merit.
The Hurricanes’ second defeat in their last six means they finish at 8-6 on 39 points, one point ahead of closest pursuers the Waratahs.
The Kiwis had their chances to finish on a high point as they led 22-20 in the last quarter, but after Ralston’s go-ahead score in the 74th minute, they couldn’t find the accuracy when it mattered to a to produce a winning response.
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Aidan Morgan and Josh Moorby continue their strong rookie campaigns with outstanding performances in a busy Canes backline. Moorby in particular, with his few tries taking his season tally to seven, looks like an exciting prospect with attacking firepower at the rear. Morgan’s goal tracking remains his biggest work-on.
Wes Goosen (95m at the carry) and Salesi Rayasi (70) also ran hard and strong for the visitors, while young No 8 Brayden Iose made a big shift before giving way to Ardie Savea for the final quarter.
The Canes took a 17-13 lead in the shed at half-time, no doubt slightly disappointed by the late attempt given up to Force striker Santiago Medrano, which allowed the home side to climb back into the game.
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Previously, three attempts in a golden quarter had brought the visitors from 0-6 to 17-6 within five minutes of the break. Fullback Moorby passed in front of two of them to punctuate a fine first 40, while Iose had the third as he was beautifully put away down the left flank by Rayasi’s strength and creativity.
A yellow card from Rayasi and a try from Andrew Ready gave momentum to the Force in the early second half, Rayasi put the Kiwis back in the spotlight (22-20) just below three quarters, then things got quite unraveled for the visitors . run home.
For veteran Perth-based Kiwis Jeremy Thrush and Richard Kahui, they now have to await events in Melbourne to see if this is indeed the end of their careers. The ball, you might say, is in the Highlanders’ court.
Force 27 (Santiago Medrano tries 39min, Andrew Ready tries 45min, Byron Ralston tries 74min; Ian Prior 2 pen, 2 con; Michael McDonald con) Hurricanes 22 (Josh Moorby 2 tries 21min, 27min, Brayden Iose tries 35min, Salesi Rayasi tries 58min; Aidan Morgan con)
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