Hurricanes stay in title race

The Hurricanes kept themselves in the hunt for the Super Rugby Aotearoa title after claiming a deserved 31-18 bonus-point win over the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.

After picking up a full house of points, the Hurricanes stayed in third place on 21 points, but are now three points away from the log-leading Crusaders, who face the Highlanders on Sunday. The second-placed Blues have a bye this weekend, before facing the Crusaders next weekend.

The result sets things up for an entertaining Sunday clash as the Crusaders could claim the title with a win against the Highlanders, but neutrals would be hoping that the race goes down to the final round of the tournament next weekend.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, their club-record losing streak has now been stretched to nine games. This was very much in pattern with their previous losses as Warren Gatland’s side kept themselves in the contest until the final 10 minutes, when their shaky defence ultimately cost them. As the Chiefs have a bye next weekend, they will finish the tournament without a win, but their young side can take plenty of lessons from the past season.

A first-half brace from in-form midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen gave the Hurricanes a 12-3 lead at half time. One of Umaga-Jensen’s tries was expertly set up by South African-born wing Wes Goosen, who threw a brilliant offload to keep the ball from going into touch.

The Chiefs were losing the momentum battle in the first half and their woes were compounded when they lost captain Sam Cane to a concussion after the All Blacks skipper was injured in a tackle.

Despite their struggles, the Chiefs managed to stay in the contest and were given a boost when Kobus van Wyk was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Brad Weber.  While they were unable to get over the line, the Chiefs went into the shed 12-3 down, although the Hurricanes would have felt short-changed with their nine-point lead, given their dominance.

The Chiefs finally exploited their numbers advantage at the start of the second half as they sucked Hurricanes defenders into a maul before spreading to allow Sean Wainui to score in the corner. However, the Hurricanes hit back straight afterwards as Dane Coles finished off an initial linebreak from Vince Aso.

The Hurricanes then extended their lead as Jackson Garden-Bachop exploited space out wide with a clever cross-field kick to allow Van Wyk to mark his final home appearance with a try.

To their credit, the Chiefs stayed in the fight and moved to within seven points of the lead after Bradley Slater went over from a back of a maul. However, the game was settled when substitute back Billy Proctor scored after the Chiefs slipped a few tackles after a scrum.

Hurricanes – Tries: Peter Umaga-Jensen (2), Dane Coles, Kobus van Wyk, Billy Proctor. Conversions: Jordie Barrett (3).
Chiefs  – Tries: Sean Wainui, Bradley Slater. Conversions: Damian McKenzie. Penalties: McKenzie (2).

Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara (c-c), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (c-c), 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Billy Proctor, 23 Jonah Lowe.

Chiefs  – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Ollie Norris.
Subs: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Rob Cobb, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Quinn Tupaea, 23 Kini Naholo.

Photo: Getty Images

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