The Hurricanes claimed a 32-31 win over the Chiefs in their quarter-final in Wellington on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Hurricanes’ remarkable home record remains intact. The Wellington-based side has now won 22 of their last 23 games on home turf, but in all likelihood, they will need to travel to Christchurch for a semi-final against the Crusaders, who are highly favoured to beat the Sharks in Super Rugby’s second quarter-final.
While the scoreline shows that just one point ultimately separated the sides, it belies how comfortable this win was for the Hurricanes, who conceded two late tries when the result was already secure.
Friday’s encounter was always expected to be a humdinger of a New Zealand derby, and while the first half wasn’t filled with tries, the battle between these two top teams was no less compelling or competitive.
The difference on the scoreboard ultimately proved to be a contentious 32nd-minute try to TJ Perenera when an on-field decision of ‘no try’ was overturned by the TMO, which enabled the hosts to take a 17-10 lead into the break.
In a hard-fought first-half battle, it was the Hurricanes’ robust defence that set them apart as they were forced to make 82 tackles to just 31 from the Chiefs, and yet the Hamilton-based team simply couldn’t find a way through despite enjoying ascendancy in terms of possession (65%) and territory (68%).
However, it would be the Chiefs who opened the scoring in the second half after a superb counter-attack eventually resulted in dynamic centre Anton Lienert-Brown dotting down to help draw the scores level once again.
That served as a major wake-up call for the Hurricanes, and it ultimately took a moment of magic from Perenara to restore their advantage when he showed great strength to power over the tryline after breaking off the back of a 5m scrum.
It was a score that enabled the Canes to establish a handy eight-point lead heading into the final 15 minutes, and when big Ben Lam went over to score in the 69th minute, the game was as good as won.
McKenzie and Lachlan Boshier would score late consolation tries for the Chiefs, but there was no doubt that the formidable Hurricanes were fully deserving of their place in the semi-finals.
Hurricanes – Tries: Julian Savea, TJ Perenara (2), Ben Lam. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3). Penalties: Barrett (2).
Chiefs – Tries: Brad Weber, Anton Lienert-Brown, Damian McKenzie, Lachlan Boshier. Conversions: McKenzie (3), Charlie Ngatai. Penalty: McKenzie.
Hurricanes – 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Jordie Barrett, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Gareth Evans, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Wes Goosen.
Chiefs – 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai (c), 11 Shaun Stevenson, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Mitch Karpik, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Alex Nankivell.