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Hurricanes, ACT advance to Super Rugby semifinals

June 22, 2019
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Crusaders Jack Goodhue is tackled by Highlanders Liam Squire as he makes a run upfield during the Super Rugby quarterfinal between the Crusaders and the Highlanders in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, June 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Salesi Rayasi came off the bench to score two tries as the Hurricanes beat South Africa’s Bulls 35-28 in a Super Rugby quarterfinal on Saturday, setting up an all-New Zealand semifinal against the defending champion Crusaders.

The ACT Brumbies followed up with a 38-13 win over the Durban-based Sharks to move into a semifinal next weekend against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. Forward Peter Samu scored two tries to lead the resurgent Brumbies to a seventh consecutive win.

The semifinal combinations mean only one New Zealand team can reach the final.

Rayasi took the field in only his fifth Super Rugby match as an early replacement the injured Wes Goosen.

The rookie winger made a clean break from the base of a ruck to score his first try in the 27th minute and handled twice on his way to his second in the 44th which gave the Hurricanes a decisive 29-14 lead just after halftime.

But Rayasi also conceded a penalty try and received a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on which prevented a Bulls try in the 50th minute, making his appearance more eventful.

Winger Cornal Hendricks, who was denied a try by Rayasi’s indiscretion, still managed to score two tries for the Bulls.

They scored the first try of the match through winger Warrick Gellant in the 13th, conceded the lead when scrumhalf T.J. Perenara scored four minutes later and trailed for the rest of the match.

But the Bulls refused to give up, falling behind by up to 15 points but rallying on each occasion to push the Hurricanes the whole way.

“It was great quality for playoffs footy,” Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. “The first half was bloody good and they made a comeback in the second half and took the game to the wire.

Both teams scored four tries and were largely separated by two second-half penalties to Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett, who also made a try-saving tackle in the 68th minute.

Trailing by seven points, the Bulls, who had already drawn two matches in New Zealand this season, threw everything at the Hurricanes to try and force the match to extra time. But in an unfair twist it was Hendricks who dropped the ball after the final siren to end the match.

The Brumbies advanced to their first Super Rugby semifinal in four years, ensuring an Australian presence in the semis.

“I’m really proud — the Sharks threw a lot at us and the way the boys kept digging deep for each other was special,” Brumbies captain Christian Leali’ifano said. “The forwards have been amazing all year, they were challenged again tonight and stepped up and provided a great platform for us.”

Backrower Samu scored in the first minute after receiving an inside ball from lock Rory Arnold and dashing 35 meters to cross between the posts. Curwin Bosch got the Sharks on the scoreboard with a 50-meter penalty, but Arnold had his second try assist on 10 minutes when he put Henry Speight into the corner for a 14-3 lead.

The teams traded penalty goals before the Sharks conceded their first rolling maul try of the season when Samu scored on 24 minutes. The Brumbies held a 24-6 lead at the break but the Sharks closed the gap when Andre Esterhuizen barged through Irae Simone to score in the 56th.

Joe Powell clinched the match when he ran 20 meters to score with eight minutes to go. His replacement, reserve scrumhalf Matt Lucas, scored a try in the final minute.

The Jaguares are also in form, having won 10 of their past 11 games; the Brumbies most recent loss came against the Argentine side in Buenos Aires eight weeks ago.

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