Damian McKenzie's long-range extra-time penalty saw the Chiefs edge the Highlanders 26-23 to claim Super Rugby Aotearoa's first golden-point triumph.

It proved a moment of atonement for McKenize, who had punted wide from a similar opportunity at the end of regulation time.

In total, McKenzie kicked 16 of the Chief's 26 points, with Etene Nanai-Seturo and Angus Ta'avao scoring the visitors' tries in Dunedin.

Chasing a third straight win, the Chiefs led for much of the encounter, yet were pegged back late on by fly-half Josh Ioane, who converted his own try before drilling a penalty through the sticks to force extra-time.

James Lentjes and Aaron Smith had previously crossed for the hosts at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

It was McKenzie who struck the decisive blow, landing a penalty from just short of the halfway line to send the Chiefs into third place on 12 points, two shy of the Blues, who occupy the second semi-final berth, with table-topping Crusaders coming up next.

The Western Force snatched a dramatic 16-15 victory over the Rebels on Friday as the home side failed to capitalise on their dominance at AAMI Park.

Despite enjoying 65 per cent of the possession and more than twice as many passes and carries, the Rebels were thwarted by their own lack of cutting edge against a rigid rearguard.

Force then made them pay with the only try of the contest in the 78th minute, Tim Anstee touching down after a rolling maul and Domingo Miotti adding the extras.

Matt Toomua's penalty had given the Rebels a 15-6 lead midway through the second half but a further kick that struck the upright proved a costly miss in an error-strewn contest.

Miotti also missed a kick prior to the visitors' critical try, before a last-gasp wayward drop goal attempt from Reece Hodge brought the contest to a frustrating end for the Rebels.

It was a 10th successive Super Rugby meeting between the sides decided by a single-digit margin.

And the Rebels are now just a point ahead in the Super Rugby AU standings as the battle for semi-final places hots up.

The Blues got their Super Rugby Aotearoa season back on track with a battling 27-17 victory over the Hurricanes at Eden Park and the ruthless Reds maintained their perfect Super Rugby AU record on Saturday.

Leon MacDonald's side were smarting from back-to-back defeats to leaders the Crusaders and the Chiefs, but they responded with a win in Auckland.

A penalty try and three points from the boot of Otere Black put the Blues 10-9 up at half-time, with Hurricanes full-back Jordie Barrett on target three times from the tee.

Barrett bisected the posts for a fourth time to put Tony Brown's men in front, but TJ Faiane finished following an incisive break from Stephen Perofeta 10 minutes into the second half.

Mark Telea then took a superb floating pass from Rieko Ioane to cross in the corner and Black converted.

Reed Prinsep gave the Canes hope when he crashed over four minutes from time, but Black completed the scoring with a penalty right at the end as the Blues reduced the Crusaders' lead at the top to four points.

Taniela Tupou scored a first-half double as the Reds cruised to a 44-19 Super Rugby AU win over the Rebels to go four points clear of the Brumbies at the summit.

Tupou crossed twice in the space of 14 minutes, while Hunter Paisami, Fraser McReight, Jock Campbell and Josh Flook also touched down in a clinical display at AAMI Park.

Fly-half James O'Connor finished with a 14-point haul as the Reds took over at the top, with tries from Frank Lomani, Reece Hodge and Michael Wells in vain for the third-placed Rebels.

 

The Crusaders suffered a surprise first defeat of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season as the Highlanders cruised to a 33-12 victory.

The defending champions did the double over the Highlanders in last season's competition, but the form book was turned on its head on Friday.

It was only a second win in five matches for the Highlanders, who defeated the league leaders through 18 points from the boot of Mitch Hunt.

Billy Harmon, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop crossed for the Highlanders, who are a point behind the second-placed Blues having played a game more.

Meanwhile, in Super Rugby AU, the Waratahs suffered their sixth straight defeat but came agonisingly close to a draw with the league-leading Brumbies in their first game since Rob Penney's sacking.

Interim coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker saw plenty of fight from their winless side, who staged an admirable second-half fightback having trailed 24-10 at the break.

Will Harrison converted his own try to trim the gap to seven points with under a quarter of an hour to play.

The Brumbies saw Rory Scott sin-binned with six minutes left and, after Tom Cusack was sent off with the clock red, James Ramm went over following a scrum metres out from the line, offering Harrison the chance to clinch a share of the spoils.

But Harrison could not split the uprights with his conversion attempt as the Waratahs suffered a 24-22 loss and more misery in a dismal campaign.

It was not sealed in the fashion they would have hoped for, but Wales could belatedly celebrate Six Nations glory on Friday.

Wayne Pivac's side had missed the chance to claim a Grand Slam triumph last week in a heartbreaking last-gasp defeat to France.

But with France needing a bonus-point win by a 21-point margin in Friday's rearranged clash with Scotland - delayed due to an earlier COVID-19 outbreak - to deny Wales again, Les Bleus' loss in Paris handed them the title.

"It's a real emotional rollercoaster, the last seven days really," Wales head coach Pivac said on Saturday.

He added: "It was just different and that's what we've come to expect from this pandemic really.

"It was evident that we had to go and do something different and that was to watch us win a championship from our living room."

That was far from the only first in a tournament with its fair share of twists and turns, though, as Opta data shows.
 

MORE TRIES, MORE DRAMA

There were six tries in Friday's frantic affair at the Stade de France and that contributed to a new Six Nations record.

A total of 86 tries were scored across the 15 matches, the most in a single edition of the tournament in its history.

And Scotland's dramatic 27-23 success, sealed with an 80th-minute Duhan van der Merwe score, was a fitting end to the competition.

Eight of the 15 games were decided by margins of five points or fewer, another new benchmark.

"There were some great games," Pivac said. "It was just a shame we didn't have crowds. You can imagine how much of an atmosphere would have been generated.

"It was a good advertisement for the game and a lot of nations are heading in the right direction. It's exciting."

Van der Merwe beat two defenders in the decisive fixture and in doing so set a new tournament high of 31, surpassing Brian O'Driscoll's 30 defenders beaten in 2000.

The wing's brace also saw him become the first Scotland player to finish a Six Nations campaign as the outright leading try scorer (five).

France needed to score at least one more try in order to have a chance of snatching the championship, but they still matched their best haul of 18 from 2006.

Not all the records were quite so impressive.

Italy conceded 239 points, 34 tries and had a points difference of -184, the worst such tallies for any team in an edition of the Six Nations.
 

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Wales' title was their sixth since Italy were introduced to the tournament to form the Six Nations in 2000.

Four of their previous five had been Grand Slam successes, a record over this period they could not extend thanks to France's epic win last week.

But Wales are now only one Six Nations crown behind England's seven.

"It gives us a lot of confidence to feel like we're on the right track," the title-winning coach said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves."

This was not a tournament England will reflect on fondly, even as captain Owen Farrell became only the third man - after Ronan O'Gara and Jonny Wilkinson - to reach 500 points in the Five/Six Nations.

Eddie Jones' outfit came in as defending champions but slumped to their joint-worst Six Nations finish, coming fifth as they had in 2018.

England also lost against Ireland, Wales and Scotland in the same Five/Six Nations campaign for the first time since 1976.

At the bottom of the table, though, there was no change.

Italy have picked up the Wooden Spoon in each of the past six years, this after finishing bottom of the championship just once in the prior four seasons.

The Reds thrashed Waratahs 46-14 to maintain their perfect start to the Super Rugby AU season and return to the top of the standings.

Substitute Alex Mafi's second-half hat-trick helped seal an emphatic victory for the leaders, who had not beaten the Waratahs in Sydney in eight years.

Will Harrison kicked three penalties for the hosts in the first half, but the Reds responded through tries from Tate McDermott, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Filipo Daugunu.

Taniela Tupou crossed over early in the second half to extend the Reds' lead and, while Will Harris touched down to give Waratahs a temporary reprieve, their opponents soon ran away with the game.

Mafi, brought on at the interval, scored the first of his three tries with a little over an hour played and added two more before full-time, either side of Hugh Sinclair and Zane Nonggorr being sin-binned for separate offences.

The Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between Chiefs and Blues earlier on Saturday was a lot tighter, with Damian McKenzie snatching a famous 15-12 win for the hosts in the final minute.

Akira Ioane found a way through 24 minutes in for the only score of the first half of what turned out to be a thrilling contest in Hamilton.

But the Chiefs, who had gone 11 matches without a Super Rugby win before beating Hurricanes last weekend, hit back through McKenzie's penalty and a Samisoni Taukei'aho try, the hooker grounding the ball in the midst of a maul of players.

That lead lasted just a few minutes, however, as Tom Robinson charged clear and dotted down for the Blues' second try, which Otere Black was unable to add to from the conversion.

And that would prove a costly miss as, with less than a minute to go, McKenzie rounded off a fine counter-attack and brushed himself down to add the extras for a memorable victory that lifts Chiefs up to third, now within two points of their opponents.

France star Gael Fickou insists Les Bleus 'don't have to question everything' after missing out on the Six Nations title once again following their 27-23 loss to Scotland on Friday.

Les Bleus had to score four tries or more and win by a margin of at least 21 points to end their 11-year wait for the title but fell short in the final match of the Six Nations handing Wales their second crown in three years.

Fickou, who moved from inside centre to the wing and was named Player of the Match, was hugely disappointed to see France miss out on their first title since 2010 but said they did not need an overhaul.

“There were some good things and not so good things," Fickou said post-game.

"Of course, we're disappointed. It's a huge disappointment. We had a chance to win the match. We were facing a beautiful Scottish team.

"It was difficult. We could have done better. We can’t throw everything away. We don’t have to question everything."

The win was Scotland's first in France in 12 Tests, last winning in Paris 22 years ago, but Fickou explained the scenario played its part for Les Bleus.

“We were chasing the title, perhaps we got mixed up in some areas, we maybe wanted to score too quickly, we didn’t finish our attacks," he said.

“They held onto the ball well, they went through 50 phases, we were rushed, we wanted to score the 21 points. In the end, that cost us dear.”

Wayne Pivac says Wales' failure to win the Grand Slam takes nothing away from their Six Nations success after they were crowned champions on Friday.

Six days after Wales missed out on the Grand Slam with a heartbreaking last-gasp defeat to France at Stade de France, Scotland denied Les Bleus the title with a stunning 27-23 victory in the final match of the tournament.

Duhan van der Merwe's second try right at the end of a thrilling contest gave Scotland a first win in Paris since 1999.

France had to claim a bonus-point victory by a margin of at least 21 points to win the title, but fell short due to an outstanding Scotland performance in tough conditions on a rainy evening.

Wales head coach Pivac had to contend with speculation over his future last year during a difficult start to his reign, but the New Zealander was celebrating on Friday.

He said: "From a Welsh point of view, we are over the moon and very happy to have won the Championship. It's just a shame we couldn't have done it together as a group last week.

"It [France v Scotland] was a hell of a game. It reminded me of last week with cards, penalties and missed opportunities. It had everything.

"It was a great game to watch and following on from last week, what a tournament it's been."

Pivac added: "We don't want to talk too much about last week – it [the Grand Slam] wasn't to be.

"It certainly doesn't take anything away from the fact a lot of hard work has been done, we've come out on top of the points table and won the tournament.

"We are very happy with how things are going at the moment in our camp and we've built nicely through the competition. Some great rugby has been played in this Championship and it's exciting times for all concerned."

Gregor Townsend felt a first win in Paris since 1999 was a fitting finale for one of Scotland's "best-ever seasons" as France missed out on the Six Nations title with a dramatic defeat.

Les Bleus had to secure a bonus-point victory in the final match of the tournament by a margin of at least 21 points to be crowned champions at Stade de France on Friday.

It was Scotland who were celebrated on a wet night in the French capital, though, and Wales took the title after Duhan van der Merwe snatched a stunning 27-23 triumph by scoring his second try of a pulsating contest right at the end.

David Cherry also dotted down in the second half before Finn Russell was shown a red card nine minutes from time for catching Brice Dulin in the throat with his leading arm, having booted 10 points on his return to the side.

Scotland started the tournament with a first win over England at Twickenham since 1983 and ended it with a long-awaited away victory against France.

Townsend's men finished in fourth spot, but the Scotland head coach believes they made great strides this season.

He told BBC One: "I'm so proud of the team. They came here with a bit of adversity with not our full squad, an injury to one of our starters [Matt Fagerson] on Wednesday, a yellow card [for Stuart Hogg], a red card, we had to come back against a very good side, but they showed courage, effort, togetherness, and skill to win.

"A great end to a really promising season for us. Even though we finished fourth, it feels like one of our best-ever seasons with the victories we've had this year and the performances tonight especially.

"That's now been the last two years we've been competitive in every game. We've grown a lot this year, grown a lot this campaign, and we've got to continue to grow over the next few years."

Scotland captain Hogg expressed his pride following a famous win, but was left with mixed feelings.

"Results at times at times have been outstanding, the performances at times have been very good, but we're probably going to be kicking ourselves in the foot with some of the losses," said the full-back.

"We're not going to get carried away, we're going to enjoy this moment and start building towards something memorable.

"I'm the captain of a very, very proud nation and we'll continue to work hard."

Wales were crowned Six Nations champions as Scotland denied France with a dramatic long-awaited 27-23 victory in Paris on Friday despite Finn Russell's red card.

Les Bleus had to score four tries or more and win by a margin of at least 21 points to end their 11-year wait for the title, but they were denied in a pulsating final match of the tournament on a rainy evening.

France led 13-10 at half-time courtesy of a Brice Dulin score after Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe's somewhat contentious opening try at the Stade de France.

Damian Penaud scored a classy second France try early in the second half, but David Cherry touched down on the hour mark to put Scotland back in front and leave Les Bleus' title hopes hanging by a thread.

Swan Rebbadj's try gave Fabien Galthie's side the lead once again before Russell, who booted 10 points, was shown a red card for making contact with Dulin's neck with his arm.

France then had Baptiste Serin sent to the sin bin and there was a stunning twist with the clock in the red, as Van der Merwe claimed a decisive double to give Scotland a first win in Paris since 1999.

The Brumbies returned to the top of the Super Rugby Australia standings as they ran out 42-14 victors over Western Force.

The Reds inflicted the Brumbies' first defeat of the season last time out, but Dan McKellar's team bounced back in comprehensive fashion on Friday.

Taking advantage of Tevita Kuridrani's booking, Len Ikitau went over twice in six minutes to open the scoring at the GIO Stadium in Canberra.

Having already lost fly-half Jake McIntyre to injury, the Force were no match for their rampant hosts – Cadeyrn Neville and Andy Muirhead scoring before half-time.

Lachlan Lonergan got in on the act after Henry Taefu had put Western Force onto the scoresheet, with Ian Prior dotting down for the visitors before Muirhead helped himself to his second try late on.

The win takes the Brumbies above the Reds, who are two points behind the Canberra team, while Western Force sit fourth with just one win to their name.

Jordie Barrett was in sensational form as his record points haul in Super Rugby Aotearoa led to the Hurricanes beating the Highlanders 30-19.

The All Blacks full-back scored all of the Hurricanes points in Dunedin on Friday, getting his team off the mark in this season's competition following three straight defeats.

In front of a 13,000-strong crowd at Forsyth-Barr Stadium, Barrett scored three tries, converting all of them, and added a further nine points from penalties.

It is a record points tally for a player in a single game of Super Rugby Aotearoa, which was established last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tyrel Lomax's yellow card midway through the first half handed the Highlanders a chance to get back into the contest after Barrett put the visitors 10-0 up, with his first penalty a 50-metre effort, but although Tony Brown's team scored through Bryn Evans, the Hurricanes' star man was on hand to restore the 10-point cushion before half-time.

Mitch Hunt's error was pounced on by the Hurricanes, with Barrett going over to seal his hat-trick.

Connor Garden-Bachop and Thomas Umaga-Jensen struck back for the Highlanders, though Barrett fittingly had the final say with a stoppage-time penalty.

France have named fly-half Romain Ntamack in the XV for their potential Six Nations-winning finale with Scotland on Friday.

The 21-year-old Stade Toulousain man replaces Matthieu Jalibert, who misses out with the head injury sustained during their thrilling 32-30 win over Wales last Saturday.

Ntamack was the 2020 Six Nations player of the Championship and would have been first choice in this campaign had he not suffered a jaw injury in December which gave Jailbert the chance to feature.

The match was originally scheduled for February 28 but a COVID-19 outbreak in the French camp saw the fixture postponed.

France must record a bonus-point victory, and win by at least 21 points, or claim a 20-point win and score at least six tries, to snatch the title away from Wales.

If France score precisely five tries and are victorious by 20 points the Championship will be shared for the first time since 1988.

In a twist of circumstance, it was Wales and France who shared the honours on that occasion, when the tournament was the Five Nations.

The return of Ntamack is one of two enforces changes, and five overall, made by France coach Fabien Galthie.

Paul Willemse is suspended after his red card against Wales so Galthie has decided to pair Swan Rebbadj and Bernard Le Roux at second row, with Romain Taofifenua named among the replacements.

Anthony Jelonch has been selected ahead of Dylan Cretin at blindside flanker, while centre Arthur Vincent comes in at inside centre as Gael Fickou moves to the wing with Teddy Thomas dropped to the bench.

"The Scots have the best defence in the tournament. They are very well organised and well disciplined," Galthie told France Rugby.

"We must not be wrong about what is at stake. You have to win the match, the rest will come later. We have to focus on performance and winning the match, we'll see what happens next."

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend makes four changes to his XV as outside centre Chris Harris, scrum-half Ali Price, hooker George Turner and fly-half Finn Russell return.

Russell is back from concussion which means captain Stuart Hogg returns to full-back while Sean Maitland stands aside.

Huw Jones, Scott Steele and Dave Cherry will be on the bench, where they are joined by Adam Hastings, who may feature for the first time in the tournament after injury and suspension absences.

"The match against France provides us with an opportunity to finish the Six Nations in our highest position in its history," Townsend told Scottish Rugby.

"This is a great opportunity for us to take on France, at home in Paris, as they also look to end the championship on a high."

France: Brice Dulin, Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Swan Rebbadj, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: Dave Cherry, Oli Kebble, Simon Berghan, Alex Craig, Nick Haining, Scott Steele, Adam Hastings, Huw Jones.

The British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa is set to go ahead as planned later this year after proposals to stage matches elsewhere were rejected.

Due to continued complications surrounding the coronavirus crisis, questions were raised over whether the Lions would be able to travel to South Africa for the eight-match trip.

But rather than host matches in the UK and Ireland, or take up Australia's offer to play games Down Under, it has been decided to press ahead with the original itinerary

The Lions and SA Rugby released a joint statement on Tuesday to confirm an agreement is in place over the staging of the tour, which begins on July 3 and continues into early August.

"After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the board's intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021," said Lions chairman Jason Leonard.

"We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust Covid-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan."

However, the original plan for the Lions to play five warm-up matches against provincial teams, an invitational side and second-string South Africa A before the three-Test series with the Springboks could still change.

"We appreciate the Lions' faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander in the same statement. 

"We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

"There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. 

"But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners."

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney acknowledged the preferred contingency plan of staging the tour in the UK had become increasingly unviable.

"It was always the preferred option to go to South Africa," he said. "We had to develop a whole range of different scenarios given the potential outcomes and one of those was a UK series.

"It's quite controversial as it's not the spirit of the Lions, but as fall-back option, we thought it was a strong one. If they can't host it, the agreement's off and we've probably run out of time to host it in the UK, so you play in 2025."

Lions coach Warren Gatland is due to announce a squad for the tour at the start of May, with the first warm-up match to be played on home soil on Murrayfield against Japan on June 26.

England will conduct a "brutally honest" internal review of their Six Nations performance but will not rush the decision on the future of Eddie Jones.

The 2019 World Cup finalists finished fifth in this year's Six Nations tournament, losing all three games against Scotland, Wales and Ireland for the first time since 1976.

A spirited victory over France had restored some credibility to the side after a shock 11-6 home defeat to Scotland and a resounding 40-24 loss in Cardiff, but their campaign concluded last weekend with a 32-18 reverse in Dublin.

England conceded 121 points in their five games, more than in any previous Five or Six Nations championship, leaving Jones' position as head coach under serious scrutiny.

Bill Sweeney, CEO of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), accepted there was huge disappointment around their performance and that tough questions must be asked as they attempt to build a squad capable of winning the World Cup in two years' time.

However, he insisted on Tuesday that any possible changes to the team will be given great consideration.

Asked to summarise England's Six Nations campaign, Sweeney replied: "How long have you got?

"It's a tough question. We're all incredibly disappointed. England don't go into a Six Nations to come fifth, which is why we'll have a thorough debrief.

"We had a debrief scheduled for May and we'll probably bring it forward to April. It needs to be a thorough, brutally honest analysis of what went wrong and why.

"Since Japan, our focus is on going and winning a World Cup in France.

"You'd expect us to do an absolute and full debrief. You have to recognise and respect Eddie's achievements since he's been here: three Six Nations championships, a grand slam, a World Cup final - that's a tremendous performance.

"But he wants to understand this as much as anybody and we want to let him talk to us about what happened in the Six Nations and are we on track to where we want to get to in 2023.

"It's really important at this stage to apply good old English calm. We have to react, we won't do nothing, but it's important not to overreact. We won't leave any stone unturned in trying to understand it.

"It's a young squad, it was the youngest ever team in a World Cup final, and yet we're in a period of transition. It's unusual. When you're in transition, you want to make sure you're heading in the right direction.

"I don't think I can honestly answer [if he will be sacked]. He's as disappointed as we are, and we'll do this debriefing session together."

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