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Super Rugby semis locked down as Rebels farewelled

The Wellington Hurricanes defeated the Melbourne Rebels 47-20 in their Super Rugby quarter-final, the Australian side's last match in the competition after 14 years (Grant Down)
The Wellington Hurricanes defeated the Melbourne Rebels 47-20 in their Super Rugby quarter-final, the Australian side's last match in the competition after 14 years (Grant Down)

The Wellington Hurricanes and Auckland Blues booked home semi-finals against the Waikato Chiefs and ACT Brumbies respectively on Saturday as the Melbourne Rebels bade farewell to Super Rugby.

The top-qualifying Hurricanes overcame a slow start to beat the Rebels 47-20 in their quarter-final in Wellington, with the debt-laden Australian team playing the last match in their 14th and final season.

It set them up with a clash next week against the Chiefs, who dismissed the Queensland Reds 43-21 on Friday.

The Blues -- who finished the regular season a solitary bonus point behind the Hurricanes -- overpowered the Fijian Drua in the forwards to win 36-5 in Auckland.

They will meet the Brumbies who battled past Otago Highlanders 32-16 in Canberra, denying New Zealand a clean sweep of the final four.

Some Rebels players and supporters were outwardly emotional after the full-time whistle.

They won't return next year after Rugby Australia decided to shut down the club, which went into administration in January owing almost Aus$23 million (US$15 million).

Captain Rob Leota was pleased his team were competitive in the Rebels' first play-offs appearance.

"It was our goal from the start of the year to be the greatest Rebels team ever," he said.

"We had high hopes to go further but you can't give opportunities to a team like the Hurricanes.

"For this club, we hope we did everyone proud and hopefully we can see this team come back in the next couple of years."

- Taking chances -

Hurricanes back Jordie Barrett, whose linebreaks created two of his team's seven tries, paid tribute to the Rebels.

"I want to acknowledge the Rebels as a franchise," Barrett said.

"Since joining Super Rugby, they've always been a joy to play against -- players, staff and fans."

The Rebels disrupted the Hurricanes up front, only trailing 14-6 at the interval after conceding tries to prop Pasilio Tosi and winger Josh Moorby.

The home side took control after the resumption through tries to forwards Braydon Iose, Asafo Aumua and Devan Flanders.

Melbourne breathed life into the contest when winger Lachie Anderson crossed twice in quick succession but the Hurricanes had the final say through tries to Du'Plessis Kirifi and Kini Naholo.

The Blues were in command at 22-0 up following first-half tries to captain Dalton Papali'i, Finlay Christie and Caleb Clarke.

A Drua backline brimming with talent had few opportunities although winger Selestino Ravutaumada streaked clear for a fine individual try soon after the break.

The Blues conjured two late tries, including a second to Clarke, to win, but a knee injury that forced captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu from the field after 20 minutes will be a concern.

In Canberra, the Brumbies took a 17-16 lead into the break after a see-sawing first half saw five lead changes.

Converted tries from Andy Muirhead and Billy Pollard cancelled out three successful penalty kicks from Cameron Millar, while Jona Nareki crossed for the visitors.

The hosts came out firing in the second half with Pollard and Muirhead both scoring again inside the opening 10 minutes to build a 29-16 lead and there was no way back for the Highlanders.

"Very pleased," said Brumbies skipper Allan Ala'alatoa. "Finals footie is all about taking your chances and I think we did that well in the second half."

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