Super -- Not So Super -- R15: Try of the year and an epic climax -- but finals system farce lingers

Super Rugby Pacific's regular season is in the books, with the top eight confirmed on Sunday afternoon.

But not before there was some late drama in Melbourne, where the Rebels rounded out their season with one final win, making it four in total for the season.

Read on as we review some of the Super - and Not So Super - action from Round 15.


Fiji again provides an atmosphere like no other

What a crowd, what a comeback ... and what a try!

Saturday afternoon's game between the Drua and Chiefs in Fiji, this time in Lautoka, again reinforced what we already knew: that the expansion to the Pacific islands in this latest version of Super Rugby is likely to be the making of it.

A full house at Churchill Park watched the Drua mount one of the great comebacks in recent memory, only to fall just short of victory when the clock wound past fulltime. But not before the hosts had run in three tries in the final 10 minutes to all but overrun the exhausted visitors.

The pick of those? Well it of course had to come via winger Vinaya Habosi, who set teammate Kalaveti Ravouvou on a 55-metre run to the line in what will go down as the try of the year.

Doubling back to his own tryline to clean up a Chiefs kick, Habosi first shook off the tackle of Emoni Narawa, and then three of the winger's teammates, before he then stepped inside Josh Ioane and found Ravouvou with the offload.

From there, Ravouvou brushed aside Jonah Lowe and set sail for the try line, scoring beneath the Chiefs' sticks to send the already raucous crowd further into excitement. While it was Ravouvou's try, it was Hambosi who created the opportunity and added yet another amazing highlight to his season reel.

Habosi would be a walk-up start for a spot in any team of the competition and will surely be among Vern Cotter's Fiji squad for the Pacific Nations Cup in July.

His rise from little-known winger - and up from his hospital bed over the offseason - to one of the most dangerous players in the competition has been extraordinary and a reflection of why this Fijian Drua team is so important.

With more of their home games in Fiji next year, you should expect to see the Drua finish higher up the table than their 11th-placed return in their debut season.

Still, everyone involved should take a bow - the Drua have been a brilliant addition to Super Rugby.

Upsets add intrigue the competition will need moving forward

While the Drua missed out on an upset over the Chiefs, each of Moana Pasifika, Western Force and Melbourne Rebels flipped the script on their respective opponents, ensuring the final position in the eight wouldn't be known until the 80th minute of the closing game of the regular season.

For Pasifika, it was just a second win for their inaugural season, one that must be among the most challenging an expansion franchise has ever faced. Pasifika had no less than four matches postponed, and finished the season playing three games in nine days.

But they saved their best performance for last, dominating an unusually error-prone Brumbies side at Mt. Smart Stadium to triumph 32-22 after they had earlier lost skipper Sekope Kepu to a red card.

A few hours later in Perth, the Force managed an upset of their own, running down the Hurricanes to keep their own finals hopes alive for another 18 hours or so, and while that would eventually end in despair their 27-22 win did send popular coach Tim Sampson out a winner.

After knocking off Moana Pasifika in Auckland on Tuesday night, few people gave the Force any chance of repeating the dose on a short turnaround against the in-form Hurricanes. But riding a dominant second half from their forward pack, and some nice touches from young playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa, the Force produced probably their most complete showing since Round 2.

That then set the stage for a thrilling finale to the regular season on Sunday afternoon with the Rebels hosting the Highlanders at AAMI Park, a win for Melbourne by seven points or more meaning the Force would advance to the playoffs instead of the Kiwis.

That appeared an unlikely scenario when the Highlanders skipped out to an early 14-0 lead after the Rebels had a try overturned by the TMO themselves, only for the hosts to peg back two five-pointers of their own before the break.

Having come together in Perth to cheer the Rebels on in the hope their season might extend a week, the Force then watched on as the Rebels took the lead and extended it out to the eight points they needed to advance to face the Blues.

But the Highlanders rallied through tries to Folau Fakatava and Fetuli Paea and while the Rebels hit back to regain the lead through Young Tonumaipea, the one-point margin was still enough for the Highlanders to secure eighth spot.

While three big upsets in the final round kept things interesting, Super Rugby Pacific needs more uncertainty during the regular season if it is to really embed itself as a competition in the coming years.

Blues' b-team does the trick

Fair play to the Blues, any team who wins 13 on the bounce deserves to finish on top of the competition.

And, better yet, coach Leon MacDonald was vindicated in his decision to rest multiple frontline stars as he used the outer reaches of his squad to defeat the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.

Just as had been the case a week earlier against the Brumbies, the Blues needed a post-siren drop goal to get the job done, this time through Zarn Sullivan, at Leichhardt Oval, with the youngster holding his nerve to send the 14,000-strong crowd home with a bitter taste in their mouths.

MacDonald can now rest easy knowing the likes of Beauden Barrett, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Finlay Christie, Hoskins Sotutu and skipper Dalton Papali'I have all had a week's break, leaving them primed for three straight games at Eden Park - that's provided they keep on winning.


Matera gets it wrong, puts finals campaign in jeopardy

What on earth was Pablo Matera thinking on Friday night?

Just days after Highlanders fly-half Sam Gilbert had been suspended for five weeks for a dangerous tackle on Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper, the Crusaders' star import lifted Reds back Jordan Petaia through the horizontal and dropped him to ground in almost exactly the same fashion during the Kiwis' 28-15 win on Friday night.

After a lengthy review by the officials, Matera was eventually only handed a yellow card with vision appearing to show that Petaia's shoulder, rather than his neck or head, was the first point of the contact with the ground.

However, the fact that Matera had dropped Petaia, and that the Reds centre's neck also hit the ground heavily, had many on social media suggesting the Crusaders flanker was very lucky not to see red.

Fortunately for the Crusaders, SANZAAR's match review committee declared referee Ben O'Keefe had in fact got the decision right on field, confirming the yellow card to have been the appropriate punishment.

But it should serve as a warning to Matera and any other player considering a lifting tackle, as there is very little margin for error.

Eight-team finals series is ridiculous

It's true that the last team into the finals wasn't decided until the 80th minute of the closing game of the regular season, a result any competition would be ecstatic with.

But the fact that the Highlanders have scraped into the top eight with just four wins, and 10 losses, isn't just rewarding mediocrity, it is rewarding failure.

What team can seriously look back at their season and seriously think that at 4-10, 'yep, that was a good effort this year, lads,'."

Highlanders captain Aaron Smith was happy to see his season extend a week by virtue of the losing bonus point against the Rebels, but you got the feeling he was also slightly embarrassed by the situation, too.

Surely a better situation would be to have a top six, where the first week of the finals would give the first and second-placed finishers the week off, and then see third vs. sixth and fourth vs. fifth.

Administrators on both sides of the Tasman will have been pleased with how the final round played out, but had there been a top six in play the Reds would have been playing for a spot in the finals and had they of won [unlikely admittedly], then both the Waratahs and Hurricanes would also have required wins to advance to the playoffs.

But more importantly, it would have put far greater pressure on the previous few rounds, too.

Hopefully New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia can both come to an agreement on a rethink of the finals series - the current setup hardly inspires the reputation of a world-class competition, which Super Rugby Pacific has designs on being.