Ngani Laumape scored a brace of tries as the Hurricanes clinched an unconvincing 38-28 win over the Waratahs in Wellington on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Considering the Canes led by 21 points after the first 15 minutes, they will be bitterly disappointed by the margin of victory, and by the fact that they let a try-scoring bonus point slip through their grasp. However, in the end, the defending champs still managed to complete a fifth win of the season.
Although the Canes led 33-7 at the break, they produced an error-riddled second-half performance, which saw the Tahs outscore them 21-5. Ultimately, though, the visitors had simply too much ground to make up.
Coming into this clash, the Canes had scored a tournament-high 247 points, while conceding just 79. By contrast, the Tahs – who had played an extra game – only managed to accumulate 135 points, while leaking 199.
Despite these stats, the Tahs initially attempted to match the Canes with a ball-in-hand approach that played right into the hands of the hosts. Within the opening two minutes, a well-worked move saw Laumape dart over in the corner, while moments later, he pounced on a loose pass and put Beauden Barrett away to score.
The Canes continued to pile on the punishment as the Barrett brothers then combined for Jordie to score in the 12th minute, while a beautiful long pass from Beauden also created a try for South African-born Wes Goosen to go over for the Hurricanes’ fourth five-pointer.
The only first-half reprieve for the Waratahs came through a try to flank Ned Hanigan at a time when the older Barrett brother was in the sin bin, but an opportunistic try to Canes lock Ned Hanigan opened up a commanding 33-7 lead before the break.
At that point, it looked to be game, set, match and bonus point, but the Tahs launched a mini-comeback as both Bryce Hegarty and Jake Gordon scored within the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
That double strike briefly reduced the deficit to 12 points, but the Canes’ magic man, Beauden, restored normal service as he then produced a sniping break from within his own half, before spinning a well-timed pass to Laumape, who clinically finished off his second try.
It was a score that opened up a 17-point buffer for the Canes, but a try to Andrew Kellaway in the 71st minute suddenly reduced the deficit to just 10 points.
A late twist then saw Beauden Barrett red carded for a deliberate knock down right on his tryline, but the Canes were able to hold on for the win from there.
Hurricanes – Tries: Ngani Laumape (2), Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Mark Abbott. Conversions: Jordie Barrett (4).
Waratahs – Tries: Ned Hanigan, Bryce Hegarty, Jake Gordon, Andrew Kellaway. Conversions: Bernard Foley (4).
Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Vince Aso.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu,1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Sam Needs, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images