2022 Highlanders vs Blues

Super Rugby Pacific Qualifiers: Favorites Rule In First Round Of Playoffs

Super Rugby Pacific Qualifiers: Favorites Rule In First Round Of Playoffs

The regular season is finished, and eight worthy teams put their seasons on the line in the Super Rugby Pacific qualifiers this past weekend.

Jun 6, 2022 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Pacific Qualifiers: Favorites Rule In First Round Of Playoffs

It officially has become put-up or shut-up time in the Super Rugby season.

The slog of the regular season finished, and eight worthy teams put their seasons on the line in the Super Rugby qualifiers this past weekend with slots in the coveted semifinal round on the line. 

In the process, the league's top four seeds made the tension on themselves minimal in their playoff debuts this year, setting themselves up to play for a chance in the all-important Super Rugby Final.

Club rugby is at its best when there's something to play for, and there's arguably no club rugby competition in the world better than Super Rugby. Prepare for some fireworks in the coming weeks.

What went down in the quarterfinal round this past weekend? Below is a recap of each of the four qualifiers matchups and a look ahead at the state of Super Rugby before the semifinal matchups on FloRugby.

Blues Keep Run Going In Rout Over Highlanders

The smooth sailing continues for the Blues.

The Aucklanders made it 14 wins on the trot this weekend with a cozy 35-6 win over the Highlanders at Eden Park, moving on to the semifinal round for the first time since 2011.

Centre Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, a former National Rugby League Player of the Year before switching disciplines (to rugby union) in joining the Blues this past offseason, scored his first Super Rugby try, while creating another for All Blacks superstar Beauden Barrett as the playoffs' top seed held Highlanders to no tries defensively. 

Unquestionably the class of Super Rugby this season, coach Leon MacDonald's side have a massive rematch ahead with the Brumbies for a spot in the Super Rugby Final just three weeks removed from the Blues' thrilling 21-19 win after the siren in Round 14. 

But, for a Blues team looking to erase years of playoff failures and call itself a champion for the first time since 2003, it'll hope that destiny leads the way and gives the squad a long-awaited piece of silverware to put in the trophy cabinet.

Brumbies Keep Australia's Hopes For Glory Alive

The Super Rugby hopes of a country are resting solely on the Brumbies' shoulders now. Coach Dan McKellar's team was the only Australian side to win its quarterfinal matchup, getting past the Hurricanes in a 35-25 victory, but it needed late heroics to do it. 

Down 10 points in the second half, the Brumbies stormed back with 20 unanswered points to earn their first postseason win over a New Zealand team since 2014, with back-to-back tries from a pair of Toms in the lineup (Banks and Wright) sealing the deal. 

The Queensland Reds and New South Wales Waratahs weren't able to repeat the feat this past weekend for Aussie teams, meaning it's the Brumbies who'll be flying the nation's flag in its pursuit for a first Super Rugby title since 2004. 

After three straight defeats to close off the regular season - putting a severe dent in their playoff positioning - was the Brumbies' quarterfinal result enough to give them the boost they need to make history, or will the Blues crush their dreams in the semifinal in Auckland, much like they've done to most teams this season?

Chiefs Roll Past Tahs - But Can Their Play Last?

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillian's high-octane style of rugby has left his squad as likely the most volatile team left standing in Super Rugby. But, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The Hamiltonians put up the highest scoreline of the quarterfinal round in a 39-15 squash of the New South Wales Waratahs, ending the Australian side's heroic comeback season after going winless a year ago. 

Chiefs half-back and captain Brad Weber was stellar, crossing the try line twice as his score in the fifth minute was the jump start behind his team's controlling 27-10 lead at halftime and eventual win. 

The Chiefs entered the playoffs as one of Super Rugby's highest-scoring sides. Their 62 tries were just two off the competition's best mark, but they also had the worst defensive record among quarterfinal teams, allowing 348 points in 15 matches leading up to the qualifiers. 

Something will have to give in the semifinal meeting with the Crusaders (who allowed a league-low 33 tries in the regular season), leaving the Chiefs to hope they won't be burned from playing with fire too long.

Crusaders Cruise To Keep Title No. 11 In Sights

The Crusaders, as Super Rugby's most successful team, rarely go unnoticed when they make a serious title push. But, with the Blues stealing much of the spotlight this season as they go on their current epic winning streak, the Christchurch side is in the rare position of dark horse. 

Coach Scott Robertson's men beat the Queensland Reds for the 11th consecutive time in their 37-15 quarterfinal win, a match in which the Reds perhaps stuck around a bit longer than expected before the 10-time Super Rugby champions forcibly shut the door with a second-half offensive barrage. 

The Aussies missed a 40-yard penalty kick with 30 minutes to play that would've put them up 18-16 - a score that would've had the Reds flirting with a historic shock - to which the Kiwis responded by scoring the game's last 21 points, spurred on by tries from All Blacks stalwarts Richie Mo'unga and Sevu Reece. 

The Chiefs stand in the way of Crusaders getting back to the Super Rugby Final once again, having won three consecutive championships before COVID-19 wrecking the competition's normal format in 2020 and 2021. 

But, the Crusaders playing for another Super Rugby title would make the situation feel a lot more familiar.