Last 20 minutes a challenge for Moana Pasifika

Moana Pasifika will need to stay on the game for the whole of Friday's match against the Crusaders if they want to win the Super Rugby Pacific clash.

The team travels to Christchurch to take on the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions in round seven of the competition.

Fading off in the last quarter of the game has become a big problem for the side, something they repeated against the Highlanders last weekend in losing 45-17.

RNZ Pacific reports head coach Aaron Mauger said despite the fact that they had limited the Highlanders big ball runners for 60 minutes, the side lost their way in the last 20 minutes.

"That has been a common trend for us in all our games except for the Chiefs game. We've started well and dominated opening exchanges of games and were even winning at the 60-minute mark," Mauger said.

"In the three out of the six games we've played so far, the finish has been an issue for us so we need to look at how we can manage energy better and then just be consistent."

Mauger said the Crusaders are well-known for always putting the fire on in the last quarter.

"We've talked about embracing the challenge and then really focusing on our own game, making sure we get our own stuff right.

"We know that Crusaders are going to come hard at us, they love to build lots of pressure with the ball on hand. We know they're going to bring a lot of intensity. So just stay in the fight has really been the message all week for us," Mauger added.

Training this week focused on staying in the game and keeping working for the 80 minutes.

Playoffs still an objective

Mauger said they were happy with what they have been able to achieve so far, even though they have not been able to record a win in the series this year.

"We are happy with where we're at now. We set ourselves a goal of playing finals footy and it's not out of reach. We've made tougher on ourselves. We've definitely dropped a couple of games that I'd expect us to win," he said.

"That's done and you've just got to deal with it and move on. I am definitely still aspiring to be in the top eight."

Last week's showing against the Highlanders was a great example of how dangerous the Moana Pasifika backline can be when given space to run free.

The devastating combination of winger Timoci Tavatavanawai and outside centre Levi Aumua currently sit first and second respectively in the competition for defenders beaten and will be tested by a defensively sound Crusaders backline as they are once again named in the 13 and 14 jerseys this week.

The Crusaders this season have been inundated with key injuries to the likes of David Havili, Sam Whitelock, Ethan Blackadder and Sevu Reece.

A round seven win couldn't come at a better time for either team, with Moana Pasifika searching for their first win of the season before their historic inaugural game in Samoa, and the Crusaders looking to celebrate Richie Mo'unga's 100th match with a win.

Moana Pasifika v Crusaders game is at 7.05pm on Friday at Orangetheory Stadium.

The Fijian Drua have a bye week.

Moana Pasifika team: 1.Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 2. Samiuela Moli, 3. Joe 'Apikotoa, 4. Michael Curry, 5.Samuel Slade, 6. Miracle Faiilagi, 7.Alamanda Motuga, 8.Solomone Funaki (C), 9. Ereatara Enari, 10.Lincoln McClutchie, 11.Neria Fomai, 12.Danny Toala, 13. Levi Aumua, 14.Timoci Tavatavanawai, 15.William Havili, 16.Luteru Tolai, 17.Abraham Pole, 18 Isi Tu'ungafasi, 19.Mike McKee, 20.Jonah Mau'u, 21.Manu Paea, 22.D'Angelo Leuila

23.Fine Inisi.


Moana Pasifika midfield back Danny Toala is tackled against the Highlanders in Auckland Photo: Brett Phibbs/Photosport