Super Rugby Pacific: Moana Pasifika stun Brumbies with upset of 2022 to end inaugural season on a high

Moana Pasifika have completed their inaugural Super Rugby season with arguably the biggest scalp of the year, defeating the Brumbies 32-22 at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

In a result that has huge ramifications on the seedings for Super Rugby Pacific's playoffs beginning next week, Moana Pasifika have relegated the Brumbies to fourth on the ladder after the round-robin stage.

Although the Brumbies will still have home advantage, they will now face the fifth-placed finisher, rather than sixth.

Christian Lealiifano.
Christian Lealiifano. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Depending on results still to be played on Saturday, that opponent will be one of the Hurricanes, or the Waratahs.

The win is Moana Pasifika's second in Super Rugby after their introduction to the competition earlier this year, and first in regular time after defeating the Hurricanes in golden point.

Moana Pasifika's hopes of a season-ending victory were hit after just 10 minutes, when captain Sekope Kepu was shown a red card for a swinging arm to the jaw of Brumbies winger Andy Muirhead.

And down to 14 men for 20 minutes, Moana Pasifika conceded a try after just three as Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney opened the scoring from a lineout drive.

Down in numbers and on the scoreboard though, Moana Pasifika rallied in the first half, and hit back eight minutes later with a try of their own, as an overlap on the left wing allowed fullback William Havili to dive in to score.

From 7-0 down with 14 men, Moana Pasifika then went 12-7 up when Joe Apikotoa scored his side's second, this one from a lineout drive.

Moana Pasifika were soon back to their full quotient, before the tables turned completely on the Brumbies - who had not one, but two players shown yellow cards before the break.

Try scorer McInerney went from hero to villain when he was sin-binned for repeated infringements, before a collapsed maul resulted in a penalty try and another yellow card, this time to Jahrome Brown.

Even after playing for half of the opening 40 minutes with 14, Moana Pasifika took a 19-7 lead into the break.

Down to 13, the Brumbies took points where available to start the second half, as a Noah Lolesio drop goal brought them back to 19-10, before Moana Pasifika added to their advantage through a penalty of their own through Christian Lealiifano.

Back to 15 men, it was the Brumbies' turn to score from a lineout drive, as reserve hooker Lachlan Lonergan scored to take the visitors to within seven points, as Lolesio's conversion took them to within five.

Another Lealiifano penalty ensured the Brumbies would need to score twice in the final stages to come away with a victory, only for a dogged Moana Pasifika defence to resist everything thrown at it.

And that resistance told at the other end, as Moana Pasifika sealed just their second victory when Lotu Inisi scored in the corner, thanks to the work of former NZ Warriors centre Solomone Kata, offloading to his teammate to set up what proved to be the winner.

Pete Samu scored a consolation effort for the Brumbies to finish the match, but the visitors will enter the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs on the back of three straight defeats, having at one point been touted as the team to end New Zealand's dominance of the competition.

Moana Pasifika 32 (Havili, Apikotoa, Penalty try, Inisi tries; Lealiifano 2 conversions, Lealiifano 2 penalties)

Brumbies 22 (McInerney, Lonergan, Samu tries; Lolesio 2 conversions, Lolesio drop goal)