Vodafone Super Rugby wrap: Finalists confirmed after dramatic round 18

Super Rugby
by RUGBY.com.au staff

The 2019 Super Rugby quarter-finalists have been decided after an enthralling final regular season round.

Christchurch, Buenos Aires, Canberra and Wellington were locked in as finals venues before kick-off this weekend but the battle for fifth to eighth was not finalised until the Bulls hosted the Lions early on Sunday morning.

The Bulls' win ended the Lions' chances of a fourth straight Super Rugby final  and set the Brumbies up with the Sharks for their quarter-final.

The Crusaders will host the Highlanders to kick off the quarter-final weekend, with the Jaguares facing the Chiefs on Saturday morning (AEST) before the Hurricanes take on the Bulls and the Brumbies clash with the Sharks on Saturday night.

SCHEDULE

Super Rugby quarter-finals

Friday  June 21

5:35pm -  Crusaders (1) vs Highlanders (8), Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch,

Saturday June 22

8am - Jaguares (2) vs Chiefs (7), Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires

5:35pm - Hurricanes (4) vs Bulls (5), Westpac Stadium, Wellington 

8:05pm - Brumbies (3) vs Sharks (6), GIO Stadium, Canberra

Semi-finals

Crusaders/HIghlanders vs Hurricanes/Bulls

Jaguares/Chiefs vs Brumbies/Sharks

Here is how the top eight shapes up on the ladder after round 18.

STANDINGS

1. Crusaders - New Zealand Conference Winners 
2. Jaguares - South African Conference Winners
3. Brumbies - Australian Conference Winners
4. Hurricanes 
5. Bulls
6. Sharks 
7. Chiefs 
8. Highlanders 
 
Click here for a breakdown of each conference table

And how did we get to this conclusion? Check out all of the round 18 highlights and wraps right here.

HIGHLANDERS vs WARATAHS

The Waratahs have ended their season on a sour note after being smashed by the Highlanders 49-12 in Invercargill.

Coming into the match with a slim chance of making the finals but missing five Wallabies stars, the Waratahs were blown off the park in the opening 40 minutes and conceded five tries.

It looked like a cricket score in the making but the Tahs got their act together and held the Highlanders to one try in the the second half but the damage was well and truly done.

The hosts secured a bonus point that keeps their finals hopes alive heading into the weekend.

But it proved a sad farewell for the Waratahs’ careers of Nick Phipps and Curtis Rona, and Sekope Kepu sitting at home.

Read the full match report here.

RESULT

Highlanders 49

Tries: McKay, Li, Franklin, Naholo, Penalty, Walden, Thompson

Cons: Ioane 5, Dixon

Waratahs 12

Tries: Newsome, Mason

Cons: Mason

REBELS vs CHIEFS


Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty says the side doesn't "deserve" a finals spot after a 59-8 loss to the Chiefs sealed the sides' decline in the second half of the season.

Friday night's defeat ended their playoffs chances and sealed a fall from a 5-3 start to a 7-9 finish, leaving them well out of the eight.

Asked about that second-half fadeout, Haylett-Petty said it was something they would need to reflect upon for 2020.

"I think it probably shows we didn't deserve to be in the finals with the way we finished the season," he said to FOX SPORTS.

"So, we go back to the drawing board, reflect and come back better next year."

Melbourne needed just a win over the Chiefs to secure their maiden finals berth, but they were never able to generate dominance for long enough on Friday night.

Read the full match report here.

RESULT

Rebels 8

Tries: Philip

Pens: Hodge

Chiefs 59

Tries: Stevenson 3, Cane, Boshier, Lienert-Brown, Debreczeni, McKenzie

Cons: Debreczeni 6, McKenzie

JAGUARES vs SUNWOLVES

Argentina's Jaguares have secured second spot in the Super Rugby standings with a rampant 52-10 victory over the Sunwolves in Buenos Aires, as the playoff picture became a little clearer in the final round of the regular season.

The defending champion Canterbury Crusaders, who have a bye, have locked up top spot and the ACT Brumbies will now be third after securing the Australian conference title ahead of their Saturday match against the Queensland Reds.

Jaguares will host a playoff quarterfinal next week and, if they get through that, the bonus point win means they are now assured of welcoming their opponents to Argentina in the semifinals for a trip few sides will relish.

Coach Gonzalo Quesada made 12 changes from the Jaguares side that locked up a maiden South African conference title last week to rest some of his top players, but they were still far too strong for the Sunwolves in an eight-try demolition.

RESULT

Jaguares 52

Tries: Cancelliere 2, Carreras, Montoya, Penalty, Cruz Mallia, Moroni, Ortega Desio

Cons: Miotti 5

Sunwolves 10

Tries: van den Heever, Masirewa

HURRICANES vs BLUES


The Hurricanes gained huge impact from their bench, rallying from 24-7 down at halftime to beat the Blues 29-24 in their final Super Rugby regular season clash.

Having already qualified for the playoffs and already being assured of fourth place and a home quarterfinal regardless of the outcome of Friday's contest, the Hurricanes started an inexperienced combination.

The line-up was third string, and some of the starting backline had played fewer minutes in Super Rugby than the numbers on their backs.

The Blues took advantage and scored three first half tries through centre Taniela Tele'a, winger Caleb Clarke and fullback Melani Nanai.

But when the Hurricanes rolled out the heavy artillery in the second half, especially halfback TJ Perenara, flanker Ardie Savea and hooker Asafo Aumua, the tide of the match turned and the Blues couldn't score again.

RESULT

Hurricanes 29

Tries: Umaga-Jensen 2, Smith, Walker-Leawere

Cons: Garden-Bachop 3

Pens: Garden-Bachop

Blues 24

Tries:  Tele'a, Clarke, Nanai

Cons: Black 3

Pens: Black

BRUMBIES vs REDS


The Brumbies will go into the Super Rugby finals with plenty of momentum after a 40-27 win over the Reds on Saturday night.

With the Australian conference and a home quarter-final locked up and no ability to move up the log, there was little at stake for the Brumbies but the Canberra side played like a team with their season on the line.

The win is their sixth in a row, their best run in 12 years, and seventh straight at home - a streak that will be intimidating for whichever team meets them in the knockouts in a week’s time.

After a slow start, the Brumbies used their pack to get back on top of the Reds and discipline began to get the better of Queensland, with the visitors conceding two yellow cards and a penalty try in the opening half.

Read the full match report here.

Brumbies 40

Tries: Muirhead, McCaffrey, Penalty Arnold, Wright, Douglas

Cons: Lealiifano 3

Reds 27

Tries: Hegarty, Paia’aua, Wright

Cons: Hegarty

Pens: Hegarty

Drop: McGahan

Yellow Cards: Tupou (17’), Higginbotham (42’)

STORMERS vs SHARKS

Lukhanyo Am scored a post-hooter try to snatch a 12-9 Super Rugby final round win for the Coastal Sharks at the Western Stormers on Saturday and a quarter-finals place.

Springbok centre Am cut inside to score on 82 minutes after the Sharks patiently staged a multi-phase attack that began inside their 22 at Newlands stadium in Cape Town.

Rhyno Smith, an early substitute for injured winger Makazole Mapimpi, scored an intercept try for the Durban-based Sharks in the first half to earn them a 5-3 half-time advantage.

Stormers flyhalf Josh Stander kicked penalties before and after Smith scored and another from Jean-Luc du Plessis gave the Cape Town outfit a 9-5 advantage until Am struck. 

RESULT

Stormers 9

Pens: Stander 2, du Plessis

Sharks 12

Tries: Smith, Am

Cons: du Preez

BULLS vs LIONS


The Bulls have overcome an early scare to overwhelm their neighbours the Lions 48-27 and take the last Super Rugby playoff place their derby at Loftus Versfeld.

The home side outscored the Lions by seven tries to two on Saturday, despite going behind after 16 seconds, and will now go away to face the Wellington Hurricanes in next weekend's quarter-final.

The Bulls were 31-19 ahead at halftime in a convincing performance as the regular season came to a close, leaving eight teams left to chase for the title in the playoffs.

For the Lions, it ended a run of three successive trips to the final where they finished runners-up on each occasion.

RESULT

Bulls 48

Tries: Liebenberg 2, Gqoboka, Odendaal, Hendricks, Libbok

Cons: Pollard 5

Pens: Pollard

Lions 27

Tries: Dayimani, Brink

Cons: Jantjies

Pens: Jantjies 4