Earning their first-ever Moana Pasifika Super Rugby Pacific win saw players over the moon, as they celebrated victory against the Hurricanes on Friday, March 25.
Overjoyed, the win came in ‘Golden point extra time’ and was a surprise win over a New Zealand team, in what is the new franchise team’s debut season. The only sadness was that it came mere hours before local New Zealand (NZ) government Covid-19 spectator restrictions were to be removed. So only a few hundred people were on hand at Mt Smart Stadium to witness the magnificent upset win.
The Hurricanes team were returning from the postponed Round Five fixtures, with the squad recovering from Covid-19 cases yet hosts Moana Pasifika showed a better attitude and held the 2016 Champions to a 7-7 half time stalemate. Conditions were not an issue for either side, yet handling errors and some poor decision-making by the ‘Canes led to their downfall. The Wellington team saw a reversal of their possession and territorial advantage, as the Moana Pasifika Super Rugby Pacific team became more emboldened with second-half tries to Solomone Funaki and ultimately, the match-winning try to Danny Toala after extra time was added.
Golden point win for Moana Pasifika Super Rugby Pacific over Hurricanes
With the second Super Rugby season where Golden Point law variations were utilized, hosts Moana Pasifika took full advantage in the minutes after the referee blew time-on. And with their backs close to their own RedZone, a big tackle spilled Hurricanes possession, and a ‘hopeful kick’ upfield was toed on perfectly to sit-up for try scorer Toala.
— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) March 25, 2022
Celebrations would have been even more astronomical had fans been allowed to fill the stands, yet the elation from all Moana Pasifika Super Rugby Pacific players and management were clear to see. They earned their franchise’s first win, and a huge reversal from the past weeks’ 12-59 capitulation to the Chiefs. A 180-degree change in form that may well have mirrored that Chiefs outcome, because the Hurricanes ‘seemed to have one hand on the match win’ after two yellow cards from the Pasifika team.
When Alex Fidow scored his 68th-minute try – while ‘Canes winger Salesi Rayasi was also sidelined for a yellow card – the visitors appeared to be building in confidence. Attempting to challenge the stoic defence from Moana Pasifika, from there they failed to make it over the tryline again. In fact, the final ten minutes were mostly under the control of the home team.
“We had to work hard from last week and we showed pride and passion,” said Moana Pasifika captain Sekope Kepu. “We worked really hard in the pre-season and we knew we had it in us. We just had to string it together tonight.”
His joy must be tempered with an acceptance that discipline is a component that – against a more superior opposition – would have cost them the game. “We still have the discipline to work on, but it’s an unbelievable feeling,” said the ex-Wallabies forward. Alongside head coach Aaron Mauger, they must quickly bring their group together, before a match on Tuesday against the Blues; to recover postponed matches that will undoubtedly add internal pressures that Super Rugby Pacific organizers have rightfully or wrongly, dealt the team.
Recovery from first-ever win ahead of short turnaround midweek fixtures
Saturday will be critical for the new franchise, in how they fully recover from the previous night’s result. The support staff will have needed to plan out recovery schedules for forwards and backs, as well as utilize the entire roster to have every one of the expected matchday 23 are fully fit for Tuesday’s match against the Blues on March 29 at 7.05pm.
While an unnecessary evil; as a result of the postponed matches, Moana Pasifika Super Rugby Pacific management has been positive in their acceptance to accommodate those fixtures SANZAAR has had to make to the match schedule for New Zealand-based matches. Some teams will play a Friday > Tuesday schedule, while on three occasions, sides will be asked to play a tighter Saturday > Tuesday schedule.
See further changes to the calendar below:
Friday, 8 April: Highlanders v Moana Pasifika, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 7.05pm
[Postponed from RD 5]
Saturday, 9 April: Hurricanes v Crusaders, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 4.35pm
[Moved from Friday 8 April]
Tuesday, 12 April: Hurricanes v Moana Pasifika, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 7.05pm
[Postponed from RD 4]
Friday, 15 April: Crusaders v Blues, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch, 7.05pm
[Postponed from RD 5]
Saturday, 16 April: Chiefs v Moana Pasifika, FMG Stadium, Waikato, 4.35pm
What will make the match versus the Blues a more pleasant prospect now though, is that it is coming off of a win. A first-ever win too, and one that will do much for the squad’s attitude and expectations. They know they can secure victories now, provided they improve their discipline, they maintain fitness, and play with the pride and passion mentioned above. As Kepu stated Friday night, “All in all just very proud tonight. The giants that went before us…that was for them and our fans.”
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