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Crusaders, Chiefs, Blues set Tens pace

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Lynn McConnell     10 Feb 2018     Getty Images

The Blues were the first New Zealand side to play and they were quick to make their mark with a 22-7 win over the home side, the Reds. Melani Nanai scored two tries, the second after Jimmy Tupou was able to field a Reds tactical kick and then give it to Nanai who was in support. His speed meant he was never challenged.

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Earlier Tamati Tua opened the scoring with Caleb Clarke scoring the second, each showing good power near the line.

They made it two from two when thrashing the Wild Knights from Japan 47-10. Making the most of their hard-running skills they tested the defences of the Japanese who scored two tries of their own.

Dalton Papali'i, Mike Tamoaeita, George Moala, Jordan Trainor, Kurt Eklund, Tu'ua Manu and Caleb Clarke all crossed for tries.

Former Blues legend Carlos Spencer played in the second game and said afterwards he would have enjoyed the format had it been available in his time. It was good for the side to have two wins and he felt the win over the Wild Knights had been a good one because they were a good side.

There was a controversial finish to the Chiefs-Highlanders game which resulted in a 17-12 win to the Chiefs.
Big Highlanders forward Tevita Nabura looked to have scored an equaliser in the corner. However, after the try had been awarded the TMO came into play and said Nabura had put a foot in touch but the Highlanders camp were not convinced.

Josh McKay got the Highlanders out to a 7-0 lead before Liam Messam responded on the end of an overlap and then Sean Wainui capitalised on a sizzling break by Tim Nanai-Williams along the left flank to score.

Nabura scored after the break to level the score off an orthodox blindside move from a scrum but then Samisoni Taukei'aho scored what proved the matchwinner after Nabura had conceded the ball in a tackle. Good work by Mitchell Brown created the chance and Taukei'aho capped it off.

There was no doubt in the Chiefs second game, a 31-7 over French side Pau. Lachlan Boshier and Bailyn Sullivan scored tries to get the Chiefs out to a 10-0 lead just before halftime and then Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi provided a bonus when also crossing before the break.

Pau got on the board halfway through the second half but Nanai-Williams crossed late and then in injury time Tahuriorangi scored his second.

The Highlanders came back strongly against the Waratahs, although there were only four minutes left when they truck. They were down 0-10 but twice co-captain Ash Dixon was in set up action, firstly for a try to Terrence Hepetema and then in the matchwinner, with good work also done by Elliot Dixon and Fletcher Smith whose final choice of a long pass put Nabura in at the corner for his third try of the day and a 12-10 come-from-behind win.

The Crusaders, started with an emphatic 22-0 win over the Hurricanes. They scored two tries - to Nathan Vella and Ethan Blackadder - while Hurricanes five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop was in the sin-bin for knocking down a pass.
It didn't help when the lead was extended with a George Bridge try which involved a suspiciously-looking forward pass from Manasa Mataele to Bridge.

Vella scored the last to complete a good double.

Playing the Brumbies in the final game of the evening, the Crusaders conceded the first try when Connal McInerney took a tidy inside pass from Matt Lucas to score. However, pressure resulted in the Brumbies conceding a vital penalty and from a tap kick the ball was given to Jone Macilai who crossed wide out.

Then, soon after more pressure in the Brumbies 22m area Bridge, playing at halfback at a breakdown, saw a gap and forced his way over to give the Crusaders a 10-7 lead.

Another Brumbies assault came undone with a ball lost and Billy Harmon grasped the ball and burst through a gap and set sail down field before finding Braydon Ennor who ran in the third. But the best was still to come with a superb team try with interpassing setting Jack Stratton up with the try which gave the Crusaders a 24-7 lead at the break.

The game was wrapped up when Mataele intercepted a pass as the Brumbies tried to run the ball from deep in their own 22m.

The Brumbies were spared further embarrassment when Harmon was ruled to have knocked the ball on in a tackle as he dived for a try.

In their second game the Hurricanes beat Fiji 12-7. Scoring first when an attempted chip kick by Fiji went to hand, the Hurricanes ran the ball back and when Garden-Bachop cross-kicked James O'Reilly was perfectly placed in wide open space to run in for the try with ease.
Jone Manu Taufaga scored a try early in the second half but in the process Alex Fidow was sin-binned for a high shot on Taufaga as he scored. The Fijians lifted but lost ball in turnovers and conceded penalties which allowed the Hurricanes to get deep into Fiji territory and to apply pressure.

Garden-Bachop launched another kick to the corner but Losi Filipo was unable to hold onto the ball. But from the scrum Ben Lam's tackle pushed the Fijians into the in-goal area. And then from the scrum he was able to crash over for the key try. But as Fiji worked their way back downfield it was Lam who produced a key tackle on Serupepeli Vularika who was penalised for not releasing the ball in the tackle as he placed the ball over the line.

Earlier, Fiji, were beaten at the death 17-12 by the Brumbies.