Hurricanes huff and puff past Crusaders
February 27, 2009
Hosea Gear takes on the Crusaders defence
© Getty Images
The Hurricanes dulled the pain of the past, at least temporarily, with a rare win over the Crusaders in Christchurch.
They did it in style, too, prevailing 30-24 for the first victory in their last seven Super 12/14 outings against the reigning champions.
Long numbed by their constant failure against the most successful franchise in Super rugby history, the Hurricanes showed they had at last learned from their past lessons to repulse a Crusaders fightback from a deficit of 12-30 with 20 minutes remaining.
With first five-eighth Piri Weepu leading the way with 15 points from his goalkicking, the visitors overcame the late withdrawal due to injury of All Blacks fullback Cory Jane to largely keep the usually vocal Christchurch crowd in their seats.
Having failed to flatter in an earlier win over the Highlanders and a loss to the Waratahs, the Hurricanes kept their mistake rate to manageable levels while pressuring a Crusaders side lacking a true cutting edge in the backs.
Australian referee Stu Dickinson had an influence in that he refused to put up with constant infringing from either side, which led to the unusual sight of Crusaders captain Richie McCaw being warned as early as the 10th minute about the dubious, spoiling tactics employed by his side.
Nineteen minutes later McCaw was sinbinned and during his absence the Hurricanes jumped out to their 16-7 halftime lead when teenaged winger Zac Guildford scored in the corner.
Guildford was the beneficiary of an angled 30m run by centre Conrad Smith, who timed his offload to perfection for Guildford to score, which Weepu converted to complement his three first-half penalties.
His opposite Colin Slade did not enjoy the same success, missing two penalties before converting a 23rd-minute try to centre Casey Laulala.
Laulala's fourth touchdown in three matches came after winger Jared Payne punched holes in the midfield after returning a poor kick with interest.
The Hurricanes' at times wayward kicking game cost them after the break, too, when they closed to 12-16 after No 8 Thomas Waldrom retrieved a kick to launch a counter. The movement finished with the ball being worked wide to the left where lock Brad Thorn crossed the tryline.
But the Hurricanes reimposed themselves just 3min later when halfback Alby Mathewson cleaned up a loose pass, shrugged off a tackle and skipped clear for a fortuitous try.
They continued to show composure and were rewarded with another try to second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu in the 60th minute following a patient build up before pouncing when a hole finally appeared in the Crusaders' defensive screen.
The home side ensured the game retained its interest to the end when Payne finished off a surging midfield run by replacement lock Isaac Ross in the 70th minute.
The crowd found its voice at last as the Crusaders finally lifted their intensity, posing series questions of the Hurricanes' resolve as the clocked ticked down.
The volume rose further with 3min remaining when Dickinson sinbinned Hurricanes captain Rodney So'oialo for playing the ball on the ground and almost immediately the Crusaders struck when Waldrom muscled his way over the tryline.
But the Crusaders ran out of time, leaving an eerie silence to envelop the Christchurch match venue.
Crusaders: Stephen Brett, Jared Payne, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, Kade Poki, Colin Slade, Kahn Fotuali'i, Thomas Waldrom, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read, Ross Filipo, Brad Thorn, Ben Franks, Jason Macdonald, Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: Daniel Perrin, Bronson Murray, Isaac Ross, George Whitelock, Tyson Keats, Ryan Crotty, Adam Whitelock.
Hurricanes: Cory Jane, Zac Guildford, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Piri Weepu, Alby Mathewson, Rodney So'oialo (captain), Scott Waldrom, Karl Lowe, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Tim Fairbrother, Ged Robinson, John Schwalger.
Replacements: Jacob Ellison, Neemia Tialata, Bryn Evans, Faifili Levave, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Tamati Ellison, David Smith.