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Winless Moana Pasifika playing better than last year, says Mauger

Mauger and his team believed they were on the brink of a famous victory over the Blues at Eden Park last night when leading by six points with the fulltime siren having sounded but a penalty try awarded to the home side due to a collapsed scrum with two Moana forwards in the bin put paid to that.

It meant Moana Pasifika, beaten by the barest of margins 31-30, couldn’t replicate the Fijian Drua’s triumph over the Hurricanes in Suva earlier when the home side got up 27-24 over the shell-shocked visitors.

Last year, in their first season, Moana Pasifika won two matches, including a sensational victory at Mt Smart Stadium over the Hurricanes, but they have failed to get across the line this year – not that they’re playing poorly, said Mauger.

“We’re playing better rugby hands down this year,” he said. “Just because we haven’t got results doesn’t mean we’re not improving.

“You can see in the performance we’re not far off. We’ve had five or six of those games we’re in with a chance to win.

“We need a bit more polish and that’ll swing quite quick. We always knew it was going to take three-to-five years to be consistently competing with the best sides. We still have high aspirations so it’s disappointing we’re not there yet but it doesn’t mean we’re not growing.

“We’re extremely grateful. The boys wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play Super Rugby if it wasn’t for Moana, and the Drua are the same. It shows the potential and possibilities are there if we keep building and put the right support in place it’s going to be exciting in the years to come.”

The Blues, meanwhile, who led 17-15 at halftime, were starting to sweat, according to their coach Leon MacDonald.

Not helping matters for the Blues who went to a 17-3 lead before the visitors launched their comeback, was a yellow card after the break for prop Marcel Renata

“We weren’t feeling great in the box – [we were] starting to sweat,” MacDonald said.

“We got there in the end. There’s lots of parts of our game we can tidy up. It wasn’t a polished performance but it’s four points. We’ve lost some games playing pretty well so I’m quite happy.

“There was nothing also-rans about Moana. They were fantastic - their physicality and endeavour. They competed and showed massive passion and heart. They should take some confidence into the end of the season. I’m sure they can tip someone else up.”

Moana Pasifika travel to Wellington for a match against the Hurricanes next Saturday, with the Blues playing the Crusaders in Christchurch.