David Havili kicked the game-winning drop goal in extra-time as the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 30-27 in Wellington on Sunday.
Gameflow: In a tight contest that went to golden-point extra time, the Hurricanes and Crusaders somehow agreed to a race for tries.
Only four penalties were kicked as teams laden with experienced Test players repeatedly opted for the fool’s gold of an attacking lineout.
The real gold was in the restart where both teams seemed to have given no training time to receiving kick-offs.
The Crusaders bounced back from a 33-12 shellacking by the Highlanders to make a good start at the Cake Tin, surging into a 14-3 lead despite losing a pair of All Blacks to injury in the opening half-hour of the match.
The Hurricanes responded with two tries to match their rivals 17-17 at the break but a yellow card for centre Ngani Laumape would have given the Crusaders reason to feel very optimistic as they jogged off.
Perhaps this led to complacency as the 14-man Hurricanes outscored their rivals 10-3 in the third quarter.
Facing the prospect of their first successive losses since March of 2018, the Crusaders rallied to lock the scores in the final quarter. Captain Scott Barrett won the toss and elected to kick off in extra time.
The Hurricanes made a mess of their exit and Havili clinched the win with a sweet drop goal.
By the numbers: The Crusaders were the worse of two teams with a slack attacking breakdown, retaining just 92% of their own ruck ball, while the Hurricanes lineout was a lottery operating at a comical 53% efficiency.
The result was a bonanza of turnovers that led to unstructured attack running at unstructured defence. Though this delivered the excitement of almost 50 defenders beaten through long patches of sub-standard tackling, it also produced a litany of errors and 26 penalties, many of which were put into touch to keep poor lineout play and inaccurate breakdown work on display.
Run of play: Fullback Jordie Barrett redeemed himself from an early miss by putting the Hurricanes into a 3-0 lead nine minutes into the match. Two minutes later, the fullback was charged down in his 22 and Crusaders wing George Bridge fought through a tackle to convert the turnover of possession into a try and a 7-3 lead for the visitors.
Centre Jack Goodhue limped off with an ankle injury before the Crusaders winger struck again in the second quarter, this time cantering over untouched after hooker Codie Taylor unlocked the Canes defence with a perfectly floated pass to Will Jordan, the fullback releasing Bridge for the score, again converted by Mounga.
Joe Moody’s 100th Super Rugby appearance lasted just 26 minutes before the Crusaders prop followed Goodhue to the injury room, and this preceded a run of three successive restarts that made the scoreboard operator sweat.
First, the Hurricanes responded to the kick-off following Bridge’s try, successfully contesting the kick to mount a multi-phase attack that ended with Laumape scampering over for a try (14-10).
Laumape was then nabbed for not releasing the ensuing restart and Mounga kicked a penalty. And when the Hurricanes kick off went unclaimed by Crusaders skipper Scott Barrett, Canes lock James Blackwell collected the ball, fed Julian Savea and the powerful winger streaked up the right touchline to score in the corner with Barrett sticking the conversion to level the scores.
But the first half had one last twist before the teams headed in for a sip and a chat. Julian Savea was held up over the tryline and Scott Barrett quickly used his captain’s referral to get referee Paul Williams to review an incident of foul play. A very long-winded review ended with Laumape yellow-carded for using his forearm to pin the Crusaders skipper at a ruck.
The second half started with Laumape cheering from the naughty chair as Ardie Savea broke blind from the base of a left scrum, Wes Goosen stepped inside two defenders to score and Jordie Barrett nailed another touchline conversion for a 24-17 lead.
The teams took turns giving each other possession through sloppy play and poor decision-making before Mounga and Barrett each made the common sense decision to bang over a penalty.
The Canes started the fourth quarter with a 27-20 advantage but that was swallowed up when the Crusaders put together 12 phases from a lineout on the 35 to send wing Sevu Reece over for a try.
Having turned down multiple kicks at goal from much closer to the sticks, Barrett now opted to have a crack from 63 metres with seven minutes to go. He missed. As did Mounga with a desperate drop-goal attempt before Williams blew the final whistle.
Havili didn’t miss in golden-point extra time. The Crusaders centre kept his head down and sank a 25-metre drop goal from the pocket after replacement lock Mitchell Dunshea charged down the Canes attempted clearance from the restart.