A four-try first half blitz paved the Hurricanes way into the Super 14 semi-finals with a 37-28 win over the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
Ma'a Nonu contributed two touch-downs in a four-try first half blitz to pave the Hurricanes way into the Super 14 semi-finals with a 37-28 win over the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
There will be no Australian team in the semi-finals in 2009 as the 'Canes win in Brisbane bumps the Waratahs out of the top four.
The Hurricanes never looked like losing. Five tries and the bonus point moves them into provisional second place in the standings, meaning the Bulls will need at least two points against the Sharks later in the day to secure a home-semi final.
The New Zealand team were deserved victors and dominated every facet of play.
The visitors were first on the score board after just six minutes when Nonu sailed over to round off a eight-phase build up. At pace and with space to work with, Nonu was never going to be stopped by Berrick Barnes.
The 'Canes scored their second try inside the ten-minute mark with a team effort that lasted all of 60m. Rodney So'oialo and Victor Vito were amongst those who showed off some super handling before Nonu provided the final pass for Piri Weepu. The scrum-half's victory dance raised a few eyebrows and must have disturbed Willie Ripia, who missed an easy conversion.
Nonu was again in the mix ten minutes later, touching down his second try, another long-range effort from the visitors. Vito was having a stormer and played his part in a move that started inside the 'Canes half. It was Nonu's eighth of the season, putting him top of the tournament's try-scorers list.
The Reds had yet to look dangerous and it came almost as a surprise when Quade Cooper pulled a try back. The Wallaby produced a moment of magic to step, twist and twirl his way past five 'Canes defenders in hardly any space to somehow sneak over. Barnes provided a pearl of a conversion to make the scores 7-17.
The 'Canes struck right back though, as Cory Jane scored the bonus-point try. With the likes of Jason Eaton and John Schwalger smashing the ball up on the other end of the field, it was easy for Nonu to put Jane into acres of space as the full-back sliced through the Reds stretched defence to dive over untouched.
Credit must be given to the Reds who fought on. Ben Lucas dived head first into the centre of a ruck to somehow find a inch of grass to touch the ball down on to score the home side's second try just before the break.
With the scores at 14-24, optimistic home fans held onto a glimmer of hope when the teams swapped ends, but the 'Canes would extend the lead shortly after running back onto the field.
Jeremy Thrush rounded off another period of classic phase play before Ripia landed the conversion to restore the seventeen-point gap.
The Reds would dominate the next ten minutes, and despite some ferocious defending form the visitors, eventually cracked the grey curtain as Mark McLinden hit the line at pace to run in.
With five tries in the bag already the Hurricanes went into their shells and kept it tight. Two long-range penalties from Ripia were enough to extend the lead to sixteen points.
A Brando Va'aulu intercept try from 70m with eight minutes to play added some spice to the closing stages.
But the Hurricanes showed they can defend as well as they can attack, booking a place in the play-offs to relative ease.
Man of the match: Nonu is an obvious candidate and Piri Weepu was top-class too. But Sevens star Victor Vito gets our nod. He had a relatively quiet second half but his first forty minutes were simply brilliant – there are a lot of flanks out there who wish they had his hands.
For the Reds:
Tries: Cooper, Lucas, McLinden, Va'aulu
Cons: Barnes 4
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Nonu 2, Weepu, Jane, Thrush
Cons: Ripia 3
Reds: 15 Mark McLinden, 14 Brando Va'aulu, 13 Charlie Fetoai, 12 Quade Cooper, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Poutasi Luafutu/Andrew Shaw, 6 Ezra Taylor, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Van Humphries, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Anthony Sauer.
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So'oialo (c), 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Karl Lowe, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Jason Kawau, 22 Zac Guildford.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Paul Marks (Australia), Sindile Mayende (South Africa)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)