Paul Tito scored a 79th minute try to give the Hurricanes a 39-32 win over the Chiefs in an error-ridden Super 14 Round Two match in Hamilton on Friday.
There were no bonus points for tries in Week 1 of the 2007 Super 14. In this match there were two, as each side got the requisite number of tries.
The Hurricanes got one more than the Chiefs when on the stroke of time big Paul Tito, playing 199th first class match, galloped some 30 metres to dive over in the right corner for the try which won the match. Up the great man stood, face impassive under his red thatch after an incredible effort for a veteran lock after 80 minutes of energetic rugby.
There were tries and there was lots of movement, but also a multitude of errors. The Chiefs were more error-prone than their opponents with wonky line-outs as they gave away six in the first half, two skew and four lost, poor tackling, and crucially poor handling. The Hurricanes were more effective, despite losing the penalty count 11-4.
Ma'a Nonu led the Hurricanes out because he was playing his 50th match. Tana Umaga, back as captain, playing his 299th first class match. The match was not all gold for him. In fact in a match of many blunders, his won the prize as he lost the ball in putting it down over the line for an unpressured try.
The Chiefs played with the Waikato breeze in the first half and looked intent on ignoring the boon. They seemed not to want to win as they made crucial mistakes.
Before they eventually scored a try, they wasted three glorious opportunities. True, they eventually got two. The only trouble was that they conceded three, two from astonishingly poor play. In the match they tapped three penalties from which the Hurricanes scored two tries and gained a lot of ground.
The Chiefs were willing enough but seemed to take aim when shooting at their own feet.
Mind you they lost their captain Jonno Gibbes after just four minutes as he walked off the field, face almost impassive, his foot turned over on his ankle. It turned out to be a serious tear to his calf muscle. Kristian Ormsby took his place.
The Hurricanes scored first, in the action which saw Gibbes hurt. It was a moment of delightful simplicity. There was a tackle/ruck about 38 metres from the Chiefs line. Scrumhalf Alby Mathewson picked up the ball and scooted past three tacklers to score at the posts. It was not his only good run in the match, just his best. He was better at running than passing.
Then came a period of wind-assisted attack by the Chiefs as they made blunder after blunder.
From a Jimmy Gopperth kick the Chiefs counterattacked, sweeping for the line and it seemed that Sosene Anesi had scored but the referee ruled the pass to him forward. It was a dubious decision.
Roy Kinikinilau started the next attack with a brilliant counter down the left. The ball went right and with a try beckoning centre Niva Ta'auso knocked on.
Bad things come in threes and the third came with an attack down the left and a pass inside to Ormsby who was at the line with no Hurricane nearby, but the tall man knocked on.
Just when it seemed that the Chiefs were doomed never to score a try lively scrumhalf Brendon Leonard broke, charged at the line, was knocked over but managed to stretch out and score. Donald converted and the score was 7-all. The match's seesaw was working.
Back came the Chiefs. They made a penalty into a five-metre line-out and then lost the line-out as the confused forwards watched the ball go to Luke Andrews, not a Chief lifting an arm to get at the ball.
Attacking and not scoring is demoralising for the attacking side and encouraging for the defenders. And so the Hurricanes scored next.
Cory Jane started a counterattack on the far left. The Hurricanes spread it wide where Thomas Waldrom dummied and ran and played to Tamati Ellison who played inside to Serge Lilo who scored. 14-7 after 20 minutes.
Back came the Chiefs and under the posts Kinikinilau was ruled to have lost the ball forward in the tackle.
That meant five lost opportunities in one half.
After Donald had scored a penalty goal, the Chiefs actually took the lead, and it looked so easy. Liam Messam picked the ball up at the base of the scrum, ran wide on the blind, handed off Waldrom and scored.
There were three minutes to half-time and the Chiefs led 15-14. But just as at the vital end of the match, it was the Hurricanes who got vital points.
This was the first of the Chiefs' tapped penalty disasters. Steve Bates tapped the penalty and then passed to his right, too high and to nobody. The ball bounced and Nonu picked it up to run nearly half the length of the field for a try in the left corner.
So the Hurricanes went into the break leading 19-15. It seemed so wrong.
Leonard had a good run early in the second half and then Donald goaled a penalty when an unrepentant Umaga was penalised for dissent. 19-18.
But soon afterwards Umaga made up for it with yet another gift try. After the Chiefs had tapped a penalty and lost the ball, the Hurricanes were making a mess of handling. Umaga turned and picked up a wayward ball. He swivelled away from Donald sprinted, sidestepped past Anesi and scored at try. Gopperth converted. 26-18. That try was the first bonus-point try of the 2007 Super 14.
Hosea Gear, who had a strong match, broke away from five feeble attempts to tackle him, raced ahead and sent Umaga off on a long, sweeping, unimpeded run. As he bent to ground the ball he let it slip from his grasp. It was an embarrassing moment.
Flash Masaga had a great run from a scrum and eventually Kinikinilau was over for a try which Donald converted. 26-25.
Soon afterwards Gopperth kicked a penalty. 29-25.
Tito had a good run in an outside centre position and then it seemed that Masaga had to score down the right for the Chiefs by replacement wing David Smith cut him down with a brilliant tackle.
The Chiefs took their courage in the hands and kicked a penalty out for a five-metre line-out. This time it worked as they drove a fast, cohesive maul over the line for a try by Tom Willis which Donald converted from far out. The Chiefs led 32-29 with 11 minutes to play. That try meant a bonus point for the Chiefs.
But the lead did not last. Gopperth kicked a penalty. 32-32 with nine minutes to play.
The excitement of the match had been building up. When the denouement arrived there was relieved glee for the visitors, a crushing disappointment for the 17 000 home fans.
The coup de gras was given by galloping Paul Tito who is heading for Cardiff later this year. It came after the Chiefs had bungled a kick ahead and Bradley Mika had scooped it up to Luke Andrews who set Tito galloping.
Man of the Match: Roy Kinikinilau, Brendon Leonard and Liam Messam of the Chiefs had fine matches, as did the Hurricanes Hosea Gear, Jimmy Gopperth, Luke Andrews and, on the run, Alby Mathewson but we are going to give our award, despite his burst of ill manners and despite his in-goal blunder to Tana Umaga, above all for his zestful defence and also for his unlikely try.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Leonard, Messam, Kinikinilau, Willis
Cons: Donald 3
Pens: Donald 2
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Mathewson, Lilo, Nonu, Umaga, Tito
Cons: Gopperth 4
Pens: Gopperth 2
Chiefs: 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 11 Roy Kinikinilau, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Steven Bates, 5 Jono Gibbes (c), 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Craig West
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Simms Davison, 18 Kristian Ormsby, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Murray Williams, 22 Dwayne Sweeney
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Tana Umaga (c), 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Ma'a Nonu, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Luke Andrews, 5 Bernie Upton, 4 Paul Tito, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Tone Kopelani, 1 John Schwalger
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Tony Penn, 18 Bradley Mika, 19 Hayden Hopgood, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 David Smith, 22 Shannon Paku
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Gary Wise (New Zealand)
Television match official: Chris Rooney (New Zealand)