Hurricanes stun Crusaders
The Hurricanes kept their 2012 Vodacom Super Rugby title hopes alive by stunning the Crusaders with a 23-22 victory in Christchurch on Saturday.
What made the result even more remarkable was the Canes’ inability to do anything right at the setpiece as their scrum was murdered by the home side and their lineout could hardly function properly in the entire game.
With the victory, the Hurricanes gave the Chiefs a massive boost towards winning the New Zealand conference, with the Hamilton-based side now a full 10 points ahead of their nearest Kiwi rivals, and the Crusaders having the tough task of facing the Chiefs next week.
The victory was a good one also for the Bulls and Stormers, with the former having a chance later today to pass the Crusaders and the latter staying in front, but it wasn’t such good news for the Sharks, as the Hurricanes will also now fight for an elusive place in the playoffs.
Either way it was a victory built on luck and guts, as the Crusaders squandered some vital territory and possession, but still could have won it in the dying seconds had a 50 metre penalty from Tyler Bleyendaal not dipped under the bar after the siren.
In fact, after the final whistle it was tough to think the Crusaders found themselves in a position to lose, after dominating almost every facet of play, and certainly given the form they were in before the three-week enforced break for test matches, you have to wonder how much that affected them.
The Canes in contrast picked up their third straight win, and will have former Crusaders player, and now their coach, Mark Hammett beaming with the victory, as few teams win in Christchurch in Super Rugby.
It didn’t look like it was going that way as the Crusaders opened with two penalties from Tom Taylor, but the Canes found themselves ahead shorty afterwards when referee Bryce Lawrence allowed some obstruction in the final move of Conrad Smith’s first of two tries.
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The move, an exceptionally well-worked one where fullback Andre Taylor countered with a chip and collect, and found himself with the ball five passes later, eventually saw Smith at full speed heading for the tryline. But in the process, winger Julian Savea crossed in front of him and made contact with two defenders, with Smith bouncing off that trio to twist and score.
The Crusaders might have felt aggrieved at the try, but it didn’t matter too much as Zac Guildford produced a moment of beauty to score at the other end, initially flat-footing Beauden Barrett on defence to sprint away and leave Taylor gasping as he stepped inside him for a 60 metre try.
It looked as if the Crusaders were going to be full value for their 16-10 lead as the halftime siren approached, but once again Smith came up with the goods to power through two tackles and head over the line to score.
The Crusaders started the second half with a mood to be more clinical, and retook the lead through Taylor’s boot. They started to demolish the Hurricanes scrum, but found themselves not getting the reward of points for their efforts. For all the dominance, they managed to enter the last 20 minutes just five points up, leading 22-17 but failing to control the game. The Hurricanes also forced the Crusaders to start playing the game in their own half in the last 20 minutes, and simply waited for their reward.
Barrett was instrumental in this shift and probed for the corner, while some excellent work by Jack Lam in the loose kept the pressure up on the home side.
Eventually it had to come and two penalties later, the Hurricanes were back in the lead.
The Crusaders, disjointed and full of running but little else, struggled to put together a decent string of phases in the last few minutes, and eventually had to be content with the long range kick to try and find salvation.
It missed, just like three others in the match, and they were left to rue defeat while the Hurricanes were celebrating at the other end of the field.
Crusaders –Try: Zac Guildford. Conversion: Tom Taylor. Penalties: Tom Taylor(5)
Hurricanes –Tries: Conrad Smith(2). Conversions: Beauden Barrett(2). Penalty: Beauden Barrett.