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Hurricanes top Reds, storm into Super 14 semis

ALL Blacks center Ma'a Nonu scored two tries and the Wellington Hurricanes secured a four-try bonus point with seven minutes left in the first half to beat the Queensland Reds 37-28 in Brisbane yesterday and qualify for the Super 14 semifinals.

The win moved the Hurricanes to 44 points and into the top four on the final weekend of the regular season.

In Auckland, Leon MacDonald potted a drop-goal four minutes from fulltime to steer Canterbury to a 15-13 win over the Auckland Blues, keeping the Crusaders in contention for a place in the semifinals.

The Hurricanes, leading 24-14 at halftime, extended their lead to 17 points when Jeremy Thrush scored early in the second half, but Queensland's Mark McLinden pulled the hosts back to a 10-point deficit early in the second half.

The Hurricanes restored a 13-point margin when Willie Ripia kicked his second penalty of the night to add to his three conversions for the match. Brando Va'aulu scored a 70-meter intercept try with seven minutes left for the Reds for a four-try bonus point.

The win ended any chance that the previous top-four New South Wales Waratahs would move into the semifinals, leaving all four Australian sides out of the playoffs for only the third time in the 14-year history of Super rugby.

Queensland captain James Horwill played his 50th match for the Reds, who finished the year with just three wins and in 13th place. It was the sixth straight year they have finished in the bottom three in the standings.

In Auckland, MacDonald held his nerve to put his team back in front after the Blues had threatened to steal the victory with a late contentious try from center Isaia Toeava.

The result lifted the Crusaders to 41 points and third place in the standings midway through the final round of the regular season.

The defending champions will make the playoffs for the eighth year in a row unless two results go against them.

The Crusaders could have wrapped up their place in the semis by scoring four tries to collect a bonus point but were unable to score even one.


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