SYDNEY (Reuters) – Winger Sevu Reece scored a hat-trick as the Canterbury Crusaders thrashed the Melbourne Rebels 52-26 on Saturday but the unbeaten New Zealanders still look like missing out on the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final.
The Super Rugby Aotearoa champions needed to earn a bonus point and beat the Rebels by more than 33 points at Leichhardt Oval to edge above the Otago Highlanders in the standings but they were stymied by the winless Australians.
The visitors moved to within seven points of their target with seven minutes left to play but were unable to snatch a ninth try which, with a conversion, would have booked them a spot in next Saturday’s title decider.
The Crusaders will now need the Auckland Blues to slip up when they take on the Western Force at Eden Park later on Saturday to make the final against the Highlanders.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Richard Pullin)