The Hurricanes ensured their challenge for a Super 14 play-off spot is very much alive, after snaffling a bonus-point 38-10 win over the Cheetahs in Kimberley on Saturday.
The visitors ruthlessly exploited some moments of madness from the home side in the first half to rack up a 21-10 lead, and with the Cheetahs breathlessly chasing the game, the Hurricanes sat back and waited for opportunities to press home the advantage. Zac Guildford notched the bonus-point try after 54 minutes, stretching the lead to 16 points, and the job was done.
The Hurricanes move up to fifth in the table as a result of the win, pending the Stormers result later in the day.
But what a game! However one-sided the result may seem, this was one not to take your eyes off for a second. So much happened, so much that is good that is to talk about. The new rules have not always found a favourable response, but these two teams played the game as positively as possible at all times, and served up a feast.
Right from the off, we got a taste of things to come. The Cheetahs counter-attacked from Cory Jane's clearing kick, making good ground up the left with some tidy handling, and Jeremy Thrush was caught offside at a tackle, allowing Conrad Barnard to give his team the lead from the tee.
Indeed, the Cheetahs had by far the better of the first ten minutes. With Juan Smith and Duane Vermeulen both running and spoiling with gusto, the Hurricanes backs were forced into a series of handling errors, allowing the Cheetahs to build a platform.
That platform was undermined by poor support from the Cheetahs at the breakdowns: the first ten minutes was all about running and turnovers for both teams. The Cheetahs would bash the ball up and make hard yards, but eventually lose it in contact. the Hurricanes would counter, but somehow try to force one pass too many. Ma'a Nonu knocked on trying to flick a scoring pass out of a tackle. Guildford put a foot in touch trying to round off a grubber kick. Lots of bluster, lots of entertainment, no points.
It all changed after 20 minutes. Jason Eaton stole a line-out, and then two phases later took off from the back of a ruck, through some poor tackling, and under the posts. As the Cheetahs opted to go straight on the attack from the restart, Rodney So'oialo intercepted a tackle offload and ran 60 metres to score. Piri Weepu converted both tries, and suddenly, the Hurricanes were 14-3 ahead, with two tries in two minutes.
The Cheetahs responded almost as instantly as the Hurricanes had notched their second. Smith tapped a free-kick, took the ball on once more, and then spread it to Barnard. Barnard found Bosman, who found Vermeulen, who flipped out a terrific pass for Jongi Nokwe to finish in the left-hand corner. Barnard brought the score back to 10-14 with the extras - two minutes before, he had missed a penalty.
Fifteen minutes remained in the first half, and they were mesmerising. The Hurricanes backs attacked left and right in a flowing movement, until Piri Weepu passed behind Guildford into touch.
Juan Smith then shot through the Hurricanes defence like a dart through a polythene window. Three more phases took the Hurricanes' defence to breaking point, but there was slow ball from the third which stymied the movement. Still, any option would have been better than the grass-cutting drop goal attempted by Falie Oelschig.
Duane Vermeulen was unlucky not to reap more reward from charging down a laconic Weepu's clearance kick. All this, within four minutes. You dared not glance away!
It was another crazy decision that lost the Cheetahs the game. CJ van der Linde, already raising eyebrows by popping up in between the centres, tried to chip the onrushing opponents. thrush plucked the ball out of the air, set Scott Waldrom racing down the pitch, and he found Nonu on the switch for the third try, also under the posts. 10-21.
From the restart, Willie Ripia's chip had Conrad Smith and Jane combining to send Nonu away down the right, and only a desperate tackle saw the All Black into touch before the score. Jane also was caught just short on the stroke of half-time.
The second half started no less breathlessly, but it was clear the Cheetahs had shot their bolt once Meyer Bosman had been halted in the right-hand corner. They certainly enjoyed far more possession, but had run out of ideas.
Jane ran a counter-attack straight through the defence before he was tackled on the Cheetahs 22, and Guildford cut inside on the following phase to score the fourth try.
Scott Waldrom was denied by the TMO on the left, just losing the ball as he tried to stretch and ground it, and then Jane did notch one, finishing off a move down the left.
Waldrom was not to be denied, scoring the sixth from close quarters at the end, with Willie Ripia converting.
Man of the match: A tough one, but from all the starring roles in the Hurricanes backs, it was Cory Jane's running that tore the most holes in the Cheetahs' line.
Moment of the match: Zac Guildford's try. Jane's break was terrific, it was an excellent finish, and it killed off the game.
Villain of the match: In a season with so few villains, another clean slate.
For the Cheetahs:
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Eaton, So'oialo, Nonu, Guildford, Jane, Waldrom
Cons: Weepu 3, Ripia
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Conrad Barnard, 9 Noel Oelschig, 8 Duanne Vermeulen, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Rory Duncan, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wiaan du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Bees Roux, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis de Bruin, 21 Hendrik Meyer, 22 Bevin Fortuin.
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So'oialo (c), 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Chris Masoe, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Neemia Tialata.
Replacements: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bernie Upton, 19 Craig Clarke, 20 Brett Goodin, 21 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 22 Tamati Ellison
Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)
Touch judges: Paul Marks (Australia), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)