'Canes reign supreme in Christchurch
REPORT: The Hurricanes boosted their chances of winning the New Zealand Conference when they thumped the Crusaders 35-10 in Christchurch on Saturday.
The visitors outplayed their opponents with a superior attacking game and outscored the Crusaders five tries to one to secure a vital bonus point.
There were some late changes before the game with Jason Woodward coming into the Hurricanes' midfield in place of Ngani Laumape, while on the Crusaders side, Luke Romano replaced Samuel Whitelock and Mitchell Drummond coming in for Andy Ellis.
The Crusaders started well and were awarded a penalty early on, however, flyhalf Richie Mo'unga could not convert to put his team in the lead.
Instead it was the Hurricanes who slowly gained the ascendency and they eventually took the lead in the 12th minute. After sustained pressure in the Crusaders' 22, the ball eventually found its way to Woodward who ran in under the polls for the first score with Beauden Barrett converting.
The Crusaders finally got their first points of the game in 24th minute via a Mo'unga penalty. The flyhalf could have reduced the deficit further in the 28th minute, however he missed a regulation kick.
The visitors then played right into the home side's hands when they attempted to run out of their own 22, only for the ball to be turned over by Kieran Read. The loose ball found its way to Johnny McNicholl, who passed on the inside to Ryan Crotty for an easy score. Mo'unga converted and the Crusaders led by three on the half-hour mark.
Just when it looked like the Crusaders will go into the break with the lead, Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara silenced the home crowd. Perenara charged down Mitchell Drummond's kick in the home side's 22 and then regathered after the bounce evaded Mo'unga to score his team's second try. Barrett converted for a 14-10 score in favour of the Hurricanes.
The Crusaders had a golden opportunity to get the first points of the second half when McNicholl found himself in space out wide - he passed to Israel Dagg in space, but the All Black fullback dropped the ball with an overlap.
It was then the Hurricanes' turn to put pressure on the Crusaders and the visitors nearly extended their lead in the 50th minute. After sustained pressure in the home side's 22, Julian Savea had a chance to score in the corner, but his handling also let him down at the crucial moment.
However, the Hurricanes did not have to wait long before they got their third try. After dominating possession and territory and after some fantastic running rugby in the final third, it was centre Willis Halaholo who broke through some poor defending to score. Barrett once again converted and after 57 minutes the 'Canes were leading by 11 points.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes it was all Hurricanes. The visitors superior ball handling on attack was causing the Crusaders all sorts of problems.
After another attacking foray inside the Crusaders' half, James Marshall went the through the home side's defence before putting Callum Gibbins into space to sprint in for his team's fourth try of the game. After Barrett's conversion, the 'Canes had an 18-point lead going into the final eight minutes.
The Crusaders tried the best to get back in the game, but instead it was the Hurricanes who ended the game on a high when Barrett intercept on the Crusaders tryline to score his team's fifth try to secure a bonus-point win.
Man of the match: We could give have given the award to a number of Hurricanes players. TJ Perenara had a brilliant all-round game, while Julian Savea and Brad Shields were quite phenomenal on attack and defence. However, the award goes to flyhalf Beauden Barrett, who controlled the game from start to finish and gave his team some fantastic direction out wide.
Tries: Woodward, Perenara, Halaholo, Gibbons, Barrett
Cons: Barrett 5
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 David Havili, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Luke Roman0, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Jason Woodward, 12 David Havili, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Chris Eves, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Reg Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Wes Goosen, 23 Otere Black.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)