Hurricanes edge Crusaders in thriller
The Hurricanes caused an upset and got their own campaign back on track with a thrilling 29-26 win over the Crusaders on Friday.
The Hurricanes caused an upset and got their own campaign back on track with a thrilling 29-26 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.
The four tries to three bonus-point win also saw the Hurricanes move past the Crusaders and into eighth place on the Super Rugby standings.
It was a game full of energy and intrigue, but mostly a game in which two desperate teams slugged it out to stay alive in the competition.
Even though the conditions were fine, the players all seemed to have a serious case of dropsies, numerous passes going to ground in the opening quarter.
There certainly was plenty of passion, which threatened to spill over - although it mostly resulted only in handbags at 20 paces.
The game was played at an extraordinary high pace, instigated by the Hurricanes' desire to upset the Crusaders' structured approach.
A number of early injury setbacks - concussion to Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, calf strain to Luke Romano and an ankle complaint by Kieran Read, who walked off and sat down on the bench in the 25th minute - further contributed to the intrigue of the encounter.
The Hurricanes made most of the early play, attacking with vigour and energy. However, the Crusaders' defence stood firm - not all of their actions legal though - which resulted in Beauden Barrett getting a shot at goal - making it 3-0 in the seventh minute.
It became 10-0 in as many minutes, after flank Faifili Levave got the opening try when he pounced on a ball knocked back by Nafi Tuitavake. The TMO had several looks, but felt that both the knock-back and the grounding were good. Barrett added the conversion.
The Crusaders got their first real scoring chance in the 128th minute, Tom Taylor slotting a 40-metre penalty after the Hurricanes held onto the ball on the ground at the breakdown.
However, the Hurricanes hit back immediately - a few quick phases after the Crusaders failed to control the restart and scrumhalf TJ Perenara went over from a metre out. Barrett's conversion made it 17-3 at the end of the first quarter.
As was to be expected, the Crusaders hit back in brilliant fashion. A penalty near their 22 was quickly taken by scrumhalf Andy Ellis, who ran about 20 metres before off-loading to Ryan Crotty who sprinted a short distance and then launched a sublime grubber, which flying wing Johnny McNicholl collected for the try. Taylor's conversion made it 10-17 after 25 minutes.
That became 15-17 just after the half-hour mark, when McNicholl scored his second try. It came from some sloppy play by both teams, before Colin Slade managed to gain control and the Crusaders then took it through phases till McNicholl found his way over. Taylor couldn't add the extras.
And Taylor made it 18-17, giving the Crusaders the lead just before the break with a penalty - an advantage they took into half-time.
The Hurricanes started the second half like they did the first - a high-paced game in which they tested the Crusaders' defensive resolve. And it paid dividends three minutes after the break - a long, drifting pass by Perenara finding Julian Savea. The left wing kicked ahead and beat the cover to get his team's third try. Barrett's conversion made it 24-18 to the visitors.
Again the Crusaders showed patience in coming back, with Andy Ellis instrumental in setting up Colin Slade for the home team's third try. The conversion attempt by Taylor was hooked badly - leaving the game poised at 23-24.
The Crusaders regained the lead with 15 minutes to - Tom Taylor slotting his third penalty after yet another breakdown offence, 26-24.
With just over 10 minutes remaining the Barrett had a chance to regain the lead, but his attempt from 45 metres out was short and wide. And few minutes later, with Nepo Laulala again offside, Barrett missed a sitter.
However, it mattered not, as wing Alapati Leiua took matters into his own hands with a powerful burst down the right touchline, beating several defenders on his way to the bonus-point try. Barrett's conversion was wide - leaving the game still delicately poised at 29-26 in favour of the Hurricanes and just on five minutes remaining.
Tom Taylor was short with a penalty shot from over 40 metres out, with three minutes left on the clock.
And the Hurricanes managed to hang on for the win, with the Crusaders unable to force the opening for a winning score.
Man of the match: Samuel White lock was involved in all aspects of forward play, providing the physical edge the Crusaders required. Matt Todd was instrumental in the Crusaders's comeback, after they trailed 3-17 after just 20 minutes. Andy Ellis edged his battle with TJ Perenara and played a crucial role in getting the Crusaders on the front foot after the break. He also started the attack in the first half, a quick-tap penalty, that gave them their first try. TJ Perenara had his moments, while Julian Savea even managed to put Kieran Read on his backside. Then there was Andre Taylor, who again showed his potential on the counter. However, our award goes to Hurricanes wing Alapati Leiua - who may not have been as productive as some of the other players, but when it mattered most he produced the decisive play, the match-winning try with a brutal display of pure power running.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: McNicholl 2, Slade
Con: T Taylor
Pens: T Taylor 3
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Levave, Perenara, Savea, Leiua
Cons: Barrett 3
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Kieron Fonotia, 23 Nemani Nadolo.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Marty Banks.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Watt (New Zealand)