Crusaders hold off keen Canes
The Crusaders were forced to work hard for their 25-17 victory against the Hurricanes, which ended their hopes of topping the Kiwi conference.
The Crusaders were forced to work hard for their 25-17 victory against the Hurricanes, a result which ended their hopes of topping the New Zealand conference.
The Hurricanes gave it everything in their final match of the season, and denied the Crusaders the bonus point they needed to keep their hopes of winning the New Zealand conference alive.
This means that no matter what happens in their match against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday, the Chiefs will finish the season as champions of the New Zealand conference and will also enjoy home advantage in the play-offs.
Both teams scored three tries, and ultimately it was the accurate boot of Dan Carter that proved the difference between the sides in a tense clash.
The visitors got on the front foot early and took the game to the Crusaders in their own 22, but a spilled ball saw the home team hack it away and Zac Guildford outsprinted the rest to score the opening try.
The Hurricanes got straight back on attack thanks to a great run from Matt Proctor, and they took their opportunity well as it was worked out to Victor Vito who got a good inside ball from Brad Shields to go over for the try which narrowed the Crusaders' lead to 7-5.
The Crusaders were under pressure early on as the Hurricanes forced them to play from their own half, but the home side kept their composure and managed to hold out despite being pushed all the way back to their tryline.
The Crusaders hit double figures when Carter kicked a penalty after Conrad Smith had strayed offside, and after holding off another attacking raid from the Hurricanes they had another great opportunity of their own.
However, despite having an attacking line-out and then winning a tighthead scrum in the Hurricanes 22, the Crusaders could not make it count as Tom Taylor was knocked out in a heavy double tackle in front of the poles.
The Christchurch side were clearly desperate to strike again before half-time, and sent it from side to side as they searched for an opening, but the Hurricanes defence stood up well and the Crusaders had to be content with another Carter penalty which gave them a 13-5 advantage at half-time.
The home side needed three tries in the second half to keep their hopes of topping the New Zealand conference, but it was the Hurricanes who made the early running once again and it was not long before Brad Shields hit the ball at pace on a great angle in the 22 to surge over for the try.
Barrett missed his second conversion to leave the Hurricanes 13-10 down, but any thoughts of a victory march for the Crusaders at home had gone as the Hurricanes backed up their big effort in the first half.
The Crusaders hit back soon afterwards when Andy Ellis charged down a TJ Perenara box kick from an attacking line-out before grabbing the rebound to score in the corner, giving his team some breathing space at 18-10.
However, the Hurricanes were not about to give up and they showed good patience to take the ball into the Crusaders' 22 where it was sent out to Julian Savea who made no mistake to score in the corner, with Andre Taylor's conversion making it a one-point game at 18-17.
The Hurricanes threw everything at the Crusaders in the final stages of the match as they looked for an upset victory, but it would be the Crusaders who would have the final say as Tom Marshall followed up a grubber ahead to score a crucial last-minute try in the corner to seal victory for his team.
Man of the match: It was a determined team effort from the Hurricanes, but the most impressive individual was flank Brad Shields who made an impact both on attack and in defence.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Guildford, Ellis, Marshall
Cons: Carter 2
Pens: Carter 2
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Vito, Shields, Savea
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Jimmy Tupou, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Telusa Veainu.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 John Schwalger, 18 Blade Thomson, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Ope Peleseuma, 22 Andre Taylor.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garrett Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)