Moana Pasifika officially end Waratahs’ finals hopes

Darren Walton |

The Waratahs’ Izaia Perese scored a try during the Super Rugby loss to Moana Pasifika.
The Waratahs’ Izaia Perese scored a try during the Super Rugby loss to Moana Pasifika.

Moana Pasifika have put the NSW Waratahs out of their misery, officially ending the Sydneysiders’ Super Rugby Pacific finals hopes with a rousing 27-12 victory in Auckland.

Even the Waratahs had conceded it was “ridiculous” they could still make the playoffs after winning only two of 12 matches in 2024.

But Saturday’s four-tries-to-two defeat at Go Media Stadium left the last-placed Tahs with no mathematical hope of scraping into the finals.

Instead, they must beat the Queensland Reds in their last game of the season next Friday at Allianz Stadium to avoid sending off outgoing coach Darren Coleman with the wooden spoon.

Wiped out of every one of their contracted front-rowers, the Waratahs always faced an uphill battle competing physically with the bruising Moana Pasifika forward pack.

And so it proved as the Pacific Islanders ran in the first four tries to open up a match-winning 27-0 lead inside the hour mark.

Powerhouse No.8 Lotu Inisi collected a double after fullback Kyren Taumoefolau crossed for the opening try in the 15th minute.

Inspirational former Waratahs and Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu brought the house down when he stormed over to put the icing on the cake.

The Waratahs had to settle for two late consolation tries to back-rower Langi Gleeson and strike centre Izaia Perese.

“It’s the story of our season really. We’re just not executing well,” Coleman lamented.

“Our effort and energy was good. The boys moved around the field with speed and ripped into the collisions against a physical team. It just gets eroded though with so many errors.

“They did a good job to not let that energy and intent evaporate but it’s hard to win games with poor execution.

“We had six or seven knock-ons in that first half and our football decisions in general weren’t up to scratch. Our skill execution at times was poor and it hurt us.”

While the Tahs can start planning for 2025, Moana’s fourth win of the season has given them a slim hope of making the finals if they can topple struggling defending champions the Crusaders next week in Christchurch.

“We had a good day in terms of line breaks compared to them, but we left a significant number of points out there again from not being able to execute,” Coleman said.

“Moana at home isn’t a walk in the park and every time they seemed to make a line break, they scored off it.”

Coleman challenged his charges to lift for their last-up derby against the finals-bound Reds.

“I just want to see smiles on faces to finish off the year,” he said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get that tonight. They’ve tried hard, we just haven’t been good enough to get the rewards.

“With the Reds at home next week, we’ve got to wipe this pretty quick so that we can finish on a high.

“If we can finish with a nice result against an arch-enemy, it would be a positive way to finish the year.”