The Hurricanes clinched a 42-20 bonus-point victory over the Kings in Wellington on Friday, having led by just two points at half-time. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Credit to the Kings. After leaking 158 points in three matches, most pre-match pundits would have predicted another thrashing at the hands of last year’s Super Rugby runners-up. However, the Kings clearly weren’t subscribing to the same script, and their performance was not only full of character, but it was complemented by discipline and accuracy.
The visitors trailed by just five points heading into the latter stages of the clash, having produced undoubtedly their most impressive all-round performance of the season, but the Canes had led from start to finish and ultimately did enough to come away with the win.
Two tries during the latter stages of the clash handed the Canes a bonus point and changed the complexion of the scoreline, but it should not detract from a fantastic effort from the Kings.
The Hurricanes spent the first five minutes camped in Kings territory, and eventually centre Ngani Laumape was put away to score the opening try. It was an early warning sign, and when Canes No 8 Blade Thomson and then flanker Ardie Savea went over to score and open up a 19-3 lead before half an hour had passed, many would have predicted a one-sided rout.
However, the Kings responded superbly, with first captain Steven Sykes bursting over to score in his 100th Super Rugby appearance, while Louis Fouché finished off a brilliant counter-attack to dot down under the posts just before the break.
It was enough to leave the Kings trailing by just two points at the interval, with the visitors once again displaying immense character to battle back against all expectations. While the Kings have started well in each match this season before fading towards the latter stages, this time there was a real sense that the Port Elizabeth-based side were determined to produce an 80-minute effort.
The Kings completely dominated the early exchanges in the second half, but were unable to bank any points despite their earnest endeavours. However, the fact that the Hurricanes pointed to the poles when they were awarded a 54th-minute penalty was testament to the manner in which the Kings had completely changed the nature of the encounter.
Barrett slotted a 58th-minute penalty to finally push the Canes out to an eight-point lead, but the Kings won a scrum penalty soon after to once again draw them back within striking range.
Yet despite the character displayed from the Kings, another penalty from Barrett edged the Canes further ahead heading into the final 10 minutes, and the result was finally sealed when replacement Vince Aso and then Barrett went over to score and seal a bonus-point win for the hosts.
Hurricanes – Tries: Ngani Laumape, Blade Thomson, Ardie Savea, Vince Aso, Beauden Barrett. Conversions: Barrett (4). Penalties: Barrett (3).
Kings – Tries: Steven Sykes, Louis Fouché. Conversions: Fouché (2). Penalties: Fouché (2).
Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Willis Halaholo, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Mark Abbott, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Chris Eves.
Subs: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Ben May, 19 Geoff Cridge, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Matt Proctor.
Kings – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhoudt, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Chris Cloete, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 JP du Plessis.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images