The Brumbies were crowned Super Rugby AU champions as young playmaker Noah Lolesio sparkled in their 28-23 win over the Reds.

It ended a 16-year wait for a title for the Brumbies, who were good value for Saturday's win against opponents who too often let their discipline go awry.

Among many fine performances, it was 20-year-old fly-half Lolesio who caught the eye at the GIO Stadium, as he bent the contest to his will on a first outing since suffering a torn hamstring two months ago.

The man of the match got the first chunk of his 13-point haul as he and James O'Connor exchanged early penalties before Folau Fainga'a was the beneficiary of a furious 17th-minute drive to put the Brumbies in front.

Andy Muirhead finished smartly for their second score after Lolesio drew four defenders but an even better try followed for the Reds – Jordan Petaia embarking upon a dazzling run through the midfield before a deft backhanded pass allowed number eight Harry Wilson to touch down.

O'Connor's penalty to close the first half meant the deficit was trimmed to 15-13 at the interval but the Reds' haphazard start to the second period proved decisive.

Tom Banks darted through the defensive line as the Brumbies switched play from right to left for their third try, with Lolesio adding the extras before confidently thumping home a drop goal.

Filipo Daugunu was then sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle and, although Angus Blyth scrambled to touch down a loose ball in the 64th minute, the Brumbies were able to hold on.

It might have been a different story had O'Connor, who also kicked 13 points, not lacked his usual poise when he dropped a straightforward pass in front of the posts four minutes from time.

The Reds booked a Super Rugby AU final against the Brumbies with a confident 25-13 victory over the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

Brad Thorn kept them same XV that started the Reds' impressive 26-7 win against the table-topping Brumbies last weekend and they came out on top against the Rebels, who only reached the qualifying final thanks to a last-gasp try against the Western Force.

Jordan Petaia got the Reds off and running in the ninth minute when he intercepted a pass from Matt Toomua and sprinted 60 metres to touch down.

Toomua and James O'Connor traded penalties before Petaia went off due to a head knock, and, after he was joined on the sidelines by Chris Feauai-Sautia, Marika Koroibete helped restore parity with a fine score before half-time.

O'Connor converted a try for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto between the Rebels being hurt by Australia internationals Dane Haylett-Petty and Toomua being forced to leave the pitch with injuries.

Reece Hodge took over kicking duties for the visitors and split the posts with a penalty but O'Connor restored the Reds' seven-point cushion.

The Rebels also lost Wallaby hooker Jordan Uelese to an arm problem and Filipo Daugunu finished the job for the Reds in the 75th minute.

The Rebels secured a place in the Super Rugby AU finals after a thrilling 34-30 win over the Force on Saturday.

Needing a win by four or more points in Newcastle, the Rebels left it late to reach the qualifying final, where the Reds await.

The winless Force almost held off the Rebels, but Cabous Eloff scored the decisive try in the 79th minute before Matt Toomua converted at McDonald Jones Stadium.

It marks the first time the Rebels have reached the finals in Super Rugby.

The Rebels threatened to put the Force away during the first half.

Tom Pincus and Reece Hodge scored tries after charge-downs, either side of the Force responding through Henry Taefu.

Hodge's try – following a fine pass from Cameron Orr – came after two Toomua penalties as the Rebels took a 20-8 lead.

However, Andrew Ready crashed over either side of half-time for the Force to bring them level.

The Force scored 22 unanswered points, making the most of a man advantage as Brynard Stander went over after Pincus' yellow card.

Dane Haylett-Petty ended that run after a break from Marika Koroibete, before the Force's Byron Ralston was yellow-carded for taking Matt Philip out in the air.

Trailing 30-27, the Rebels needed a converted try in the final 20 minutes to advance to the finals.

Koroibete had a try ruled out for a forward pass in the 73rd minute before the Rebels' chances were boosted when Fergus Lee-Warner was shown a yellow.

The Force defended desperately late, but the Rebels finally broke through, Eloff going over before Toomua converted from right in front of the posts to seal a memorable win.

Head coach Aaron Mauger has left the Highlanders after three years with the Super Rugby franchise.

Mauger replaced Tony Brown in the top job at the Dunedin-based side in August 2017, but his tenure has come to an end after his contract was not renewed.

The 39-year-old departs on the back of a disappointing Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign in which the Highlanders won just three matches.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said: "Aaron has focused on improving and developing players and, in that regard, he can be very proud of his efforts and we thank him for everything he has done for the club.

"As a young coach with a long career ahead, we wish him and his family all the best for the next chapter of his coaching career."

Mauger said that he can have no complaints over the decision.

"Results are key to proving the quality of the structures you have put in place as a head coach," he said. "As our on-field results during my tenure haven't been at the level we've all aspired to, it’s the head coach who must take responsibility for that."

Clark added the Highlanders are in no rush to name Mauger's successor.

"We have a little bit of time before we need to make a final decision on our coaching structure for 2021. We are fortunate we have quality coaches in Tony Brown, Clarke Dermody and Riki Flutey still contracted," he said.

"Over the next short period we will be reviewing our coaching structure and who and how many we add to our current group will depend on availability and our desire to get the balance of our coaching group right."

The Rebels fell to a dramatic 38-32 defeat to the Waratahs but Matt Toomua's late penalty significantly enhanced their Super Rugby AU finals hopes.

Toomua split the posts from an acute angle in the 77th minute to secure losing bonus point, meaning the Rebels will reach the knockout stage at the expense of the Waratahs if they overcome winless Western Force by four points or more next weekend.

Jake Gordon put the Waratahs – who, with a bye in the final round, needed a bonus-point win and to deny the Rebels one seal third place – ahead and they had a 17-10 lead at half-time, with Toomua converting his own try to reduce the deficit after Jack Dempsey went over.

Harry Johnson-Holmes' score and Australia captain Michael Hooper teeing up Joey Walton put the Waratahs in control after a frantic start to the second half.

Marika Koroibete and Isi Naisarani touched down as the Rebels began to fight back – the latter going over for the second time in the game while Matt Philip was in the sin bin for repeated infringements.

The Waratahs move nine points clear, though, when Will Harrison forced his way over after charging down Andrew Deegan's kick in the 74th minute and added the extras.

However, Toomua's late penalty ensured the Rebels did not leave empty handed and have their future in their own hands with one game remaining.

The Brumbies will have home advantage in the Super Rugby AU final next month after sealing top spot with a 31-14 defeat of Western Force on Friday.

Dan McKellar's side will finish the regular season at the summit a week on Saturday following a victory over the bottom side at GIO Stadium.

Fergus Lee-Warner's try, converted by Ian Prior, gave the Force a surprise early lead but the Brumbies held a 10-7 half-time advantage courtesy of five-pointers from Tom Wright and Thomas Banks

The leaders also had two tries disallowed in as many minutes in the first half, but Will Miller was not to be denied when he crossed 11 minutes into the second half as the Force came under immense pressure.

Jono Lance touched down at the other end, with Prior successfully converting again to reduce the deficit to three points, but academy graduate Len Ikitau's first try for the Brumbies and Andy Muirhead's late effort finished the Force off.

Bayley Kuenzle was on target three times from the tee in a sixth win out of seven for the Brumbies.

McKellar might opt to ring the changes against the Reds next week ahead of a showdown for the title on September 19, while the Force remain winless.

The Reds moved to the top of the Super Rugby AU table thanks to a 57-5 thrashing of the winless Western Force on Friday.

James O'Connor scored a try and kicked 17 points in an influential performance from fly-half, while Filipo Daugunu and Tate McDermott both touched down twice in the rout.

The rampant Reds scored eight tries in total to record their biggest victory over the struggling Force, surpassing the 50-10 triumph they managed during the 2010 season.

Daugunu crossed twice in the opening half but the Reds cut loose after the break, producing a points spree after Andrew Ready finally got their opponents on the scoreboard with a 43rd-minute try.

Fraser McReight's 55th-minute score was quickly followed by McDermott's brace, with O'Connor, Bryce Hegarty and Tuaina Tualima piling on the misery in the closing stages of the one-sided contest.

The emphatic bonus-point victory moves Brad Thorn's side above the Brumbies in the standings. The two teams will meet in the final round of fixtures.

South Africa hooker Malcolm Marx is returning to Japan to join Top League side Kubota Spears. 

The Rugby World Cup winner took the opportunity to opt out of his contract with Super Rugby side the Lions in May after players were given the option as part of cost-cutting measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Marx became a free agent and has decided to continue his career in the country where he lifted the Webb Ellis Cup last year.

The 26-year-old had a spell with the Shining Arcs in Japan last season after taking a six-month sabbatical following the Springboks' World Cup triumph.

Marx joins a Funabashi-based franchise coached by his compatriot Frans Ludeke.

The uncompromising Marx, who has 33 caps to his name, had to settle for a place on the bench for the World Cup final as Bongi Mbonambi got the nod to start against England.

The Reds moved into second in the Super Rugby AU standings with a 19-3 victory over the in-form Rebels in Brisbane.

A Matt Toomua penalty put the visitors ahead after a spell of early dominance on Saturday, but the Queenslanders responded in style to move to within two points of the Brumbies at the top of the table.

Jordan Petaia, back in the side after missing last weekend's defeat to the Waratahs due to the loss of his father, marked his return with the first try of the match before Brandon Paenga-Amosa crossed and James O'Connor converted to make it 14-3.

The Rebels, who had been on a three-game winning run, struggled to break down a resilient home rearguard in the second half and Isi Naisarani was penalised for a knock-on when it looked as though they would reduce the deficit.

Jock Campbell secured the bonus-point win six minutes from time, racing clear after being released by O'Connor, as the Rebels slipped to fourth in the five-team ladder.

A strong second half helped the Highlanders beat the Hurricanes 38-21 in the final game of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season.

A change to coronavirus restrictions in New Zealand forced Sunday's clash between the Blues and champions Crusaders to be cancelled, however, the Highlanders' meeting with the Hurricanes went ahead behind closed doors on Saturday.

Two tries apiece saw the Highlanders and Hurricanes – who had three tries disallowed – level 14-14 at half-time without a crowd in Dunedin.

Vince Aso and Jamie Booth crossed over for the Hurricanes, while Ngane Punivai and Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon responded prior to the interval.

A Josh Ioane penalty and Michael Collins' try gave the Highlanders a 10-point lead early in the second half, before they were awarded a penalty try as Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea received a yellow card for a professional foul.

The Highlanders made the most of their numerical advantage after Mitch Hunt sprinted away to cross over, while Peter Umaga-Jensen claimed a consolation try for the Hurricanes with seven minutes remaining.

With the loss, the Hurricanes saw their five-game winning streak ended as they missed the chance to leapfrog the Blues into second place in the standings, while the Highlanders finished fourth in the five-team competition.

The Western Force's wait for a first Super Rugby AU victory goes on after they were beaten 28-8 by the Waratahs on Friday.

Michael Hooper celebrated his 150th Super Rugby game with a victory at Cbus Super Stadium, as the Waratahs outscored the bottom-of-the-table Force by three tries to one.

The Force led twice in the first half courtesy of a Brynard Stander try and a penalty from Ian Prior, but Alex Newsome's try and 11 points from the boot of Will Harrison gave the Waratahs a 16-8 advantage at the break.

There was no way back for the Force after the interval, Jack Maddocks' intercept try giving Rob Penney's side breathing space and Harry Johnson-Holmes crashing over in the closing stages on the Gold Coast.

The Waratahs, who welcomed Rob Simmons back from injury, are up to second after securing back-to-back Super Rugby victories for the first time since March 2019.

Sunday's Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Blues and the Crusaders has been cancelled following a change to coronavirus restrictions in Auckland.

The decision comes after the government in New Zealand confirmed Auckland will remain at stage three of the country's COVID-19 protocols for 12 days, while the rest of the nation is at stage two.

Consequently, the fixture – which was scheduled to be part of the final round of the competition at Eden Park – will be scored as a draw with both teams awarded two points.

The match between the Highlanders and the Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium will go ahead without fans in attendance, with the kick-off time brought forward by four hours to 3:05pm local time to meet rules on teams flying in and out of cities on the same day to limit public reaction.

Blues CEO Andrew Hore said: "10 weeks ago we never thought we'd even have a competition, let alone one with fans. 

"But instead we got nine weeks of incredible rugby, with three amazing home games and massive crowds. 

"While this news is disappointing, we need to take a step back and be grateful for what we got, what it meant to our players, our sponsors and, most importantly, to our fans."

Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge added: "Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa has been a fantastic display of unity and togetherness for all New Zealanders. 

"While it would have been fitting to finish our campaign in front of a full house at Eden Park, I think the rugby community can be incredibly proud of what we have collectively achieved over the last 10 weeks, and will understand that this decision has been made in the best interests of New Zealanders.

"On behalf of the Crusaders, I want to thank all of our fans for their incredible support throughout the 2020 season."

Chris Lendrum, New Zealand Rugby's general manager of professional Rugby and performance, said he understood the decision.

"It's fantastic that the Highlanders-Hurricanes game can go ahead as one final celebration of Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa," he said.

"On the flipside, we're obviously disappointed that the Blues-Crusaders match is off, but we all understand and support the government's decision around this.

"Both teams have played outstanding rugby throughout the competition in front of packed crowds and, on behalf of New Zealand rugby, we want to thank all the fans for their support for not only those two teams, but all five of our Super teams. It's been incredible."

The Crusaders wrapped up the title last weekend after coming from behind to beat the Highlanders 32-22 at a sold-out Orangetheory Stadium. 

The Crusaders clinched the Super Rugby Aotearoa title after coming from behind to beat the Highlanders 32-22 on Sunday.

An expectant crowd at a sold-out Orangetheory Stadium appeared set for disappointment until George Bridge crossed twice in three second-half minutes to completely alter the complexion of the game.

Braydon Ennor, back from a foot injury, scored the sealer five minutes from the end to ensure the reigning champions can relax going into next weekend's final-round clash with the second-placed Blues.

The Highlanders had frustrated their hosts for much of the first hour after Jona Nareki added an intercept try to Shannon Frizell's shock second-minute opener.

Richie Mo'unga touched down between those tries and reduced the margin to four points at half-time with a second successful penalty attempt.

Bottom of the New Zealand conference, the Highlanders continued to spoil the party after the interval as Josh McKay denied Bryn Hall a certain try before the excellent Josh Ioane created a chance for Michael Collins to dive over.

But the tide turned just as the Crusaders were getting desperate, with 25-year-old back Bridge put through twice in quick succession.

All momentum shifted to the 10-time Super Rugby champions and they wrapped up top spot when Ennor crossed in the closing stages.

Jake Gordon scored a hat-trick of tries as the Waratahs produced a stunning first half in a record 45-12 win over the Reds on Saturday.

Scrum-half Gordon crossed for three of his side's five tries before the break, Jack Maddocks and Alex Newsome also touching down during the onslaught at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Will Harrison converted them all following a fifth-minute penalty that had opened the scoring, his boot helping the Tahs open up a stunning 38-0 lead midway through the Super Rugby AU contest.

Tom Horton added to their advantage with a close-range finish in the 52nd minute, this time Ben Donaldson adding the extras in wet conditions following steady rain.

Jack Hardy finally grabbed the visiting Reds' first points with a try soon after, while James O'Connor went over in the final move of the game for a score the fly-half also converted.

However, despite the late points, the final margin of victory for Waratahs is the biggest in a Super Rugby meeting between the sides.

Sam Cane suffered an injury scare as the Chiefs' miserable Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign ended in a 31-18 defeat at the Hurricanes.

In what was head coach Warren Gatland's final game before he takes a one-year hiatus to focus on his British and Irish Lions duties, the Chiefs slipped to an eighth defeat from as many matches in the competition and a ninth straight loss in total.

Even more worrying was the sight of New Zealand skipper Cane needing medical treatment after his head clattered into Jordie Barrett's hip, leaving him prone on the ground, in the 26th minute.

Cane was able to walk off the pitch but the scene was eerily similar to the one in 2018 while representing the All Blacks when a tackle on South Africa's Francois Louw left him with a broken neck.

The Hurricanes dominated territory and possession and led 12-3 at the break with Peter Umaga-Jensen crossing twice.

Cobus van Wyk's sin-binning at the end of the first half gave the Chiefs a brief numerical advantage but, even though Sean Wainui touched down, Dane Coles and then Van Wyk stretched the Hurricanes' lead.

Mitch Karpik, Cane's replacement, offered brief hope of a late Chiefs revival, only for a classy try that started with a Barrett line break and ended with Jamie Booth's superb overhead flick playing in Billy Proctor to put an end to the contest.

The Hurricanes still have the slimmest of title hopes as a result of the win but need a favour from Highlanders, who play the table-topping Crusaders on Sunday, to take it to the last weekend.

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