Jordie Barrett scored 20 points, while Wes Goosen secured a brace of tries as the Hurricanes clinched a 35-16 win over the Brumbies in Friday’s quarter-final in Canberra. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In the end, the Canes got away with the expected result to keep their title defence alive, but it was only when TJ Perenara scored in the 69th minute that the victory was assured, while Goosen claimed his second try late in the game to stretch the scoreline.
Before that stage, the Canes held just a tenuous five-point lead, but after staving off a determined defensive effort from the Brumbies, they ultimately clinched the win that will now see them face the Lions or Sharks in the semi-finals.
There was something quite farcical about the fact that the Brumbies had earned the right to host this quarter-final, despite finishing the pool stages with 24 log points less than the Hurricanes.
The nature of the inequitable Super Rugby qualification process had also meant the Brumbies could rest a host of frontline players last weekend due to the fact they were already assured of a playoff place.
That certainly appeared to play a role in the first half as the Brumbies produced a far more energetic and enterprising performance, which saw them take a surprise 16-15 lead into the break.
As it was, a sparse crowd had turned up at the Canberra Stadium in a disappointing showing for a playoff clash, but perhaps even against the expectations of some of those home fans, the Brumbies emphatically dominated proceedings in the opening quarter.
During that time, James Dargaville and Josh Mann-Rea scored two well-worked tries as the hosts asserted their physicality up front, while Wharenui Hawera slotted a simple penalty after the Brumbies had overpowered the Canes’ scrum.
The only initial riposte from the Canes came in the eighth minute when South African-born Goosen displayed some silky footwork to dance his way over the tryline for his fourth try in as many matches.
With the Brumbies committing limited numbers to the breakdown in order to set up a tight-knit defensive line, it would have come as a rather cruel blow when the Canes struck through a quite bizarre ‘falcon’ try just before the half-hour mark.
The somewhat comical moment saw Perenara fire a pass into the head of prop Ben May, with Barrett pouncing to score after the ball had ricocheted over the defence.
Hawera and Barrett then traded a penalty each before half-time, while Canes prop Jeff To'omaga-Allen was shown a yellow card for a reckless shoulder charge shortly before the interval.
Despite this blow, the Canes typically appeared to flick a switch as they markedly upped the intensity after the restart, with Barrett slotting a penalty to hand the visitors the lead just after he had been denied what looked to be a legitimate try.
With the Canes having dominated possession and territory in the third quarter, while forcing the Brumbies to make a host of tackles, there was a sense that something eventually had to give.
And when Barrett slotted a third penalty in the 65th minute, followed soon after by Perenara’s try, the game was as good as won. Goosen secured his brace with an intercept try thereafter to ensure the scoreline would look somewhat flattering.
As an aside, this result sees New Zealand sides complete a clean sweep over Australian opposition this season, with 26 wins having been recorded without reply.
Hurricanes – Tries: Wes Goosen (2), Jordie Barrett, TJ Perenara. Conversions: Barrett (3). Penalties: Barrett (3).
Brumbies – Tries: James Dargaville, Josh Mann-Rea. Penalties: Hawera (2).
Hurricanes – 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Jordie Barrett, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Mark Abbott,3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Cory Jane.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani,12 Andrew Smith,11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Christian Leali'ifano.
Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images