Six-try Canes blow Sharks away
The Hurricanes overcame chronic shortages of territory and possession to score six tries to two and beat the Sharks 42-18 in New Plymouth on Friday.
The Hurricanes had only 37 per cent of possession in the first half and spent 56 per cent of the spell pressed inside their own half but broke out with three tries to take a dominant 25-3 lead to halftime.
They then snuffed out rallies sparked by two second-half tries to the Sharks, adding three more of their own to add a bonus point to their fourth win from seven matches this season. The Durban-based Sharks are 3-4 after seven games.
The match followed the pattern of Hurricanes games this season in which they have won less than 40 per cent of possession but have scored 26 tries, more than any other team in the tournament.
Fullback Andre Taylor set the ball rolling with the Hurricanes' first try against the run of play in the 13th minute. The Sharks had won 82 per cent of possession until that point and attacked relentlessly but Taylor epitomised the Hurricanes' ability to turn tiny fragments of possession into points.
The first half followed that pattern. The Sharks attacked for long periods, feeding that attack with an overwhelming supply of possession from set pieces and breakdowns. But they simply couldn't exploit those advantages and, despite long periods of phase play, found no way through the Wellington defence.
The Hurricanes would then swoop on a rare possession from a turnover or penalty and almost effortlessly construct a try, steadily building their lead and causing the Sharks a deepening sense of frustration.
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"It's nice when you've got a couple of individuals who can break a game," Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said. "But I think there's a lot of teamwork that goes into that and we work really hard as a unit defensively and I think that's what creates a lot of those opportunities when we get turnovers."
Taylor created the first try, his fifth of the season, when, after an exploratory run by Smith, he sawed between two Sharks tight forwards and changed direction while accelerating to confound the remainder of the defense.
The Sharks closed to 7-3 with a penalty to former France flyhalf Frederic Michalak, who was guilty in the first half of squandering two of the Sharks' best attacking chances by going alone while he had support out wide.
The Hurricanes scored a second try against the tide of possession in the 19th when man-of-the-match flanker Karl Lowe was driven across the goalline from close range. Giant winger Julian Savea added his first try of the season to clinch the Hurricanes' 25-3 lead at halftime.
The Sharks scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the second half after turning to take the wind. Michalak kicked a penalty then added the conversion of a try by JP Pietersen as the Durban-based team threatened to sweep back into contention at 25-13.
But the Hurricanes stifled the rally with a 48th-minute try to Smith from a deft grubber kick by 19-year-old scrumhalf TJ Perenara. Center Tim Batemen brilliantly reclaimed his own kick in an aerial contest with Sharks fullback Riaan Viljoen to give the Hurricanes a 35-13 lead after 55 minutes.
The Sharks managed a late try to hooker Craig Burden, their best player, but the Hurricanes had the last say, scoring through replacement lock Jeremy Thursh just before the final whistle.
"It's exceptionally frustrating," Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said. "We had our opportunities to convert pressure into points but they defended well, turned us over, and when they got opportunities they put points on the board."
Hurricanes – Tries: Andre Taylor, Jack Lam, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Jeremy Thrush. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3). Penalties: Barrett (2).
Sharks – Tries: JP Pietersen, Craig Burden. Conversion: Frederic Michalak. Penalties: Michalak (2).