Moana Pasifika stun Hurricanes in golden-point thriller as Danny Toala becomes an instant hero

Moana Pasifika have made Super Rugby history in stunning fashion, winning their first game in the competition with a 24-19 golden-point win against the Hurricanes, despite collecting two yellow cards.

Moana Pasifika captain Sekope Kepu and midfielder Levi Aumua were both sent to the sinbin during an ill-disciplined first half at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday.

Remarkably, the penalty count at one stage was 13-1 in the Hurricanes’ favour.

However, a brilliant try by Danny Toala – the former Hurricane – in extra time secured the famous win, prompting jubilant scenes in front of the restricted crowd.

Following a Moana Pasifika turnover in the third minute of additional time, Toala kicked the ball downfield and outpaced everyone to collect the ball and dive over for the matchwinner.

The Super Rugby newcomers were clearly desperate to respond to their flat performance against the Chiefs last weekend, but their aggressive approach was a double-edged sword.

Deprived of possession and territory, Moana Pasifika had to dig deep to simply stop the game getting away from them in the first half.

Jordie Barrett makes a break for the Hurricanes against Moana Pasifika.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES
Jordie Barrett makes a break for the Hurricanes against Moana Pasifika.
Yet, the Hurricanes will be deeply frustrated at their inability to turn all the pressure into points.

Returning halfback TJ Perenara’s passing was inaccurate at times, and Jordie Barrett twice failed to find touch from penalties.

The Hurricanes had the dominant scrum, but their lack of accuracy allowed Moana Pasifika’s belief to grow, particularly when they managed to score a try during Kepu’s 10 minutes in the sin bin.

Henry Time-Stowers was a one-man defensive machine for Moana Pasifika, repeatedly smashing ball carriers backwards and winning turnovers in a huge performance.Aumua brought a similar level of physicality, but was punished for poor tackle technique after 37 minutes. The Tasman midfielder tried to put on a big shot on Wes Goosen but was too upright, resulting in a nasty clash of heads that produced a yellow card from referee Brendon Pickerill.

While traditionalists will see little wrong with the contact, the yellow card was entirely in keeping with World Rugby guidelines: England lock Charlie Ewels was recently sent off for head-to-head contact in the test against Ireland.

Significantly, Goosen subsequently failed his HIA and was replaced by Salesi Rayasi.

Moana Pasifika midfielder Levi Aumua is tackled by TJ Perenara at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES
Moana Pasifika midfielder Levi Aumua is tackled by TJ Perenara at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday.
However, the drama was just getting started. Aumua and Solomone Funaki scored second-half tries for the inspired Pasifika team, setting up Toala’s unforgettable moment of glory.

The big moment
How can be anything other than Toala’s brilliant matchwinning try? A magical moment for Pasifika rugby.

Match rating
9/10. It wasn’t the tidiest game by any means, but the crunch that Moana Pasifika brought to their defensive work caught the eye. After last week’s disappointing game against the Chiefs, the performance was far more like the encouraging first-up effort against the Crusaders, and again showed they can bring a new and exciting flavour to the competition.

The big picture
Moana Pasifika don’t have much time to dwell on the result: they play the Blues at Mt Smart Stadium on Tuesday as part of a revised schedule that looks like a test of their medical staff more than anything else. The Hurricanes return to Wellington in round 7 for a Sunday afternoon clash against the Chiefs, but they will have to improve significantly to beat the impressive side from Hamilton.

»Moana Pasifika stun Hurricanes in golden-point thriller as Danny Toala becomes an instant hero«

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