The Hurricanes produced a powerful second-half performance to secure a 41-6 bonus-point victory over the Force in Palmerston North. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
This was far from a Super Rugby classic, with the first half in particular having degenerated into a scrappy affair, but in the end the Canes were fully deserving of the bonus-point result.
Despite battling with their finishing at times early on, the Canes were the dominant side throughout the match, and outscored the tiring Force 31-3 in a one-sided second stanza.
The Hurricanes were typically full of running in the opening exchanges, but squandered a try-scoring opportunity when Ardie Savea threw a forward pass, while Beauden Barrett also missed a penalty.
Against the run of play, the Force opened the scoring with a 20th-minute penalty, but the Canes finally broke through when captain Dane Coles scored after executing a beautifully worked lineout move. Barrett added the extras and a penalty before the break as the hosts took a 10-3 lead.
The Hurricanes would have been frustrated by their lack of patience on attack and inability to make the most of a number of first-half opportunities, but the Force did display impressive character on defence, while they contested well at the breakdown.
Grant cut the deficit to just four points when he slotted his second penalty soon after the restart, and while the Canes then set up camp in opposition territory, errors and the effectiveness of the Force’s scramble defence prevented them from adding to their points tally.
However, the Kiwi side finally managed to wear the Force down, with fullback James Marshall going over to score just before the hour mark, finishing off a movement that had started within the Canes’ 22.
A few minutes later and the Canes created another eye-catching breakout try, with scrumhalf TJ Perenara providing the finishing touches as the home team suddenly established a commanding 22-6 lead.
The double strike finally broke the Force’s resolve, and the Canes continued to turn on the style as Blade Thomson, Ngani Laumape and Savea all scored before the finish.
Hurricanes – Tries: Dane Coles, James Marshall, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Ngani Laumape, Ardie Savea. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (4). Penalty: Barrett.
Force – Penalties: Peter Grant (2).
Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Mark Abbott, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Chris Eves.
Subs: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Ben May, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Jason Woodward.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Chris Heiberg, 17 Heath Tessmann, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Stevie Mafi, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Albert Nikoro.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images