The Hurricanes had their pockets pinched on Friday as an injury-time try left them with only a 26-26 draw with the Crusaders.
The Hurricanes had their pockets pinched late on in Wellington as an injury-time try left them with only a 26-26 draw with the Crusaders.
Richie McCaw and his pack launched a barrage of pressure on the home try-line that extended the game well over the allotted 80 minutes. And just as the home side looked to have survived, a controversial try deprived them of a derby win.
See-saw rugby does not do justice to how this spectacle was played out as the visitors had remarkably taken an 0-18 lead by as early as the 26th minute. However, the Hurricanes found an extra gear with their response looking to be a winning one. That was what they thought until a Ti'i Paulo try three minutes over the 80 broke the hearts of the Wellington faithful – it has also left their play-off hopes hanging by a fraying thread.
The game was expected to see two differing styles collide, with the more structured game of the men from Canterbury going up against the slightly off-the-cuff brand that is associated with the Hurricanes. However, the pre-game Super 14 standings demonstrated that it was the visitors who were the better attackers while they had conceding fewer points despite them having playing one game less than their hosts.
And that early-term trend certainly went to script during the first-half as the 'Saders began to build phase after phase of possession, applying the early pressure on the home side. It paid off too as they did well to shift the point of attack over to the left side where Robbie Fruean, who showed enough to put himself in Graham Henry's thoughts, shrugged off a tackler before going to ground. That recycled ball was then moved to the opposite wing where flanker George Whitelock was on hand to open matters. Carter missed his extras.
The Hurricanes were struggling for any sort of foothold at that point, missing tackles and being asleep for the second score that came on 25 minutes did not help their cause. On the back of two Carter penalties, the second pushing him over the 1000 points in Super Rugby mark, the visitors struck again through Zac Guildford.
However, the score was not without a dash of controversy. A Piri Weepu clearance from his own 22 had looked to touch wing Sean Maitland before going out so when scrum-half Andy Ellis took a quick throw-in, which led to the Hawke's Bay finisher crossing, it was no surprise that questions where asked by the men in yellow.
So the mountain was eighteen points for Andrew Hore and company with barely even half-an-hour gone before the revival of all revivals turned the game on its head. Such is the way of the Hurricanes, they demonstrated their ability to turn on the style in patches, and how they did it in an eight-minute spell heading into the sheds.
First to get the ball rolling was Ma'a Nonu with a Nonu-esque try that saw him slip one man and scoot over before their second from Jeremy Thrush cut the lead down to just four points.
Speaking of that try from the in-form lock and it was another one of the Wellington outfit's stronger players of 2010 thus far who had a big hand in creating it. Cory Jane is that player as his kick and collect before following the attack led to him switching smartly with Thrush.
It was an more than impressive response from the side groomed by coach Colin Cooper who, following his fly-half's conversion being added, decided to swap starting fly-half Ripia for the younger Aaron Cruden before half-time had even arrived.
Upon the turnaround came that aforementioned see-saw trend as penalties were exchanged between Weepu and Carter, with the former most certainly on top from the tee.
Carter was really struggling to find his range for poles and that would later prove costly in the Crusaders leaving with two instead of four.
However, beggars can't be chooser as the Hurricanes were more deserving of the win until that late try deflated the whole of Wellington. The only comfort that can be taken by the hosts is that Carter missed the match-winning extras. I doubt it will soften feelings though.
Man-of-the-match: Solid 80-minute performances were on offer from many candidates in Wellington and mentions should go to Jeremy Thrush and Robbie Fruean. But the man making the most ground and busting the most tackles was Ma'a Nonu. He is back on form and will not want the bye week to come!
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Nonu, Thrush
Con: Ripia 2
Pen: Weepu 4
For the Crusaders:
Tries: G Whitelock, Guildford, B Franks
Pen: Carter 3
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Andre Taylor, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So'oialo, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Jason Kawau.
Crusaders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Richie McCaw (c), 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Daniel Perrin, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Jared Payne.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
By Adam Kyriacou