Hurricanes claim top spot
April 25, 2009
The Hurricanes' Tamati Ellison fends off the Brumbies' George Smith at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington © Getty Images
Bulls 33 - 27 Chiefs Cheetahs 20 - 13 Crusaders Hurricanes 56 - 7 Brumbies Blues 24 - 31 Reds Force 55 - 14 Lions Highlanders 11 - 18 Stormers
A superb eight-try effort from the Hurricanes saw them totally dominate the Brumbies with a 56-7 win in their clash at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
The under-strength Brumbies started strongly and were up 7-0 after barely three minutes when Ben Alexander barreled over from close in. Stirling Mortlock added the extras, but that was the last time the Brumbies registered on the scoreboard.
The Hurricanes picked up a penalty soon after, before Cory Jane kick-started the scoring spree in the 13th minute, showing impressive acceleration from a standing start to beat the swarming Brumbies defence and dot down in the corner. Conrad Smith reaped the benefit of some solid work by the forwards when he took a quick tap just metres out and crossed for Hurricane's second try.
Barely four minutes later, Tamati Ellison made it three for the Hurricanes after Stirling Mortlock uncharacteristically dropped off the tackle on a rampaging Ma'a Nonu, who slipped the pass for Ellison to cross. And just on 30 minutes, David Smith crossed for the bonus try as he regathered a well-placed kick ahead after yet another Conrad Smith break.
All four second half tries went to the bench - Faifili Levave, Victor Vito and two to Zac Guildford - as the Hurricanes ran at will around, through and over an increasingly despondent Brumbies side.
Chasing a seventh-successive victory, the Chiefs were in the hunt throughout a roller coaster fixture but paid the price for a mis-firing lineout and an ability to finish off attacking raids. Both sides scored three tries and the scoreboard kept ticking over through the accurate goalkicking boots of fly-halves Morne Steyn and Stephen Donald, with Steyn's 18 points for the Bulls ultimately proving the difference in front of a heaving home crowd.
The Chiefs lose their table-topping position, dropping to third, one point behind the second-placed Bulls. The South African side are, in-turn, one point behind new leaders the Hurricanes with three games on South African soil to follow.
The Bulls scored all their three tries in the first half - the first two to hooker Derek Kuun and a third for Wynand Olivier -- to lead 27-20 at the break. Chiefs No.8 Sione Lauaki and centre Callum Bruce dotted down in the first half with Richard Kahui adding the third.
Elsewhere, the Reds have pulled off a stunning 31-24 win over the Blues in Auckland despite the match being halted for an hour after just four minutes of play after two of the four floodlights in the ground failed.
In wet and windy conditions it was the visitors in 13th place on the log who defied convention by playing enterprising and attacking rugby. Centre Berrick Barnes was an influential figure with his option-taking and five successful shots at goal for 11 points, while Digby Ioane was an impressive outlet for the good go-forward ball generated by the Reds forwards.
Barnes' early penalty was followed by his own try on the half-hour mark after a break from deep by fullback Mark McLinden. Impressive Reds skipper James Horwill made it 17-0 by driving over from close range but the Blues outside centre Isaia Toeava ended the half on a positive note for the Blues by diving over on the hooter.
Ioane and replacement Saia Faingaa's double stung the Blues, who eventually hit back with two quick tries of their own through lock Kurtis Haiu and reserve flanker Peter Saiili, who replaced Collins at halftime. Needing two converted tries in the last 13 minutes to snare an undeserved draw, the Blues managed one to first fly-half Jimmy Gopperth after the final hooter which gave them both bonus points.
The Cheetahs scored a major victory with a 20-13 win over the Crusaders in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs returned to the scene of their 31-6 boilover against the Sharks a fortnight earlier to stun the defending champions and end their five-match unbeaten streak. Despite having 63 percent of possession, the Crusaders struggled to finish their many scoring chances against a willing home defence.
The Cheetahs somehow led 10-7 at halftime after the Crusaders completely dominated the opening quarter but only had a converted Kahn Fotuali'i try to show for it. The game was in the balance until five minutes before fulltime when Cheetahs fullback Hennie Daniller stormed onto a short ball to dive over and seal a two-tries-to-one victory. Leon MacDonald's penalty from out wide, two minutes into injury time, at least secured a bonus point as the Crusaders eye the Lions in Johannesburg next week to try and resurrect their title defence.
The Western Force with a crushing 55-14 victory over the Lions in Perth.
On the day he confirmed he would be moving to the Waratahs next year, fullback Drew Mitchell got things started with a try in the opening minute. The home side notched seven more over the course of the game, including two for winger Cameron Shepherd in a totally dominant display.
It was a record display by the Force superseding their previous best of a 38-3 win over the Reds in 2007, and also posted their highest ever score, beating the previous high tallied in the 45-17 win over the Cheetahs in 2007
In the opening game of the round, the Stormers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 18-11 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The Highlanders farewelled their supporters with and kissed goodbye to their semi-final hopes with a tired second-half display allowed the 12th-placed Stormers to steal the first victory of their arduous Australasian tour in a deserved two tries-to-one display.
Their second straight loss left the Highlanders contemplating another mid to lower table finish to the season, with three matches on the road remaining. They looked like keeping their play-off hopes alive after leading 6-0 at half-time but ultimately succumbed to a visiting side who played with more physicality, a superior kicking game and a desperation to notch their first win at Carisbrook.