The Hurricanes scored when it mattered to inflict another defeat on the debutant Southern Kings as they won an entertaining Vodacom Super Rugby match 46-30 in Wellington on Saturday.
But there was no disgrace in defeat again as the Kings played with heart once more and, although they were outgunned, made a decent run at the Canes.
There is no doubt the Kings are continuing to win friends with their passionate approach and never-say-die attitude, and while the harsh realities of Super Rugby prove again and again that unless you have gamebreakers, you won’t make an impact, it certainly hasn’t stopped them from trying.
To score four tries in Wellington is no mean feat and the Kings kept coming at the Hurricanes, despite being forced to play catch-up rugby for most of the match.
There were standout performances for the Eastern Cape side from their more experienced players, with captain Andries Strauss, lock Steven Sykes, hooker Bandise Maku and flank Jacques Engelbrecht doing more than required to meet the eye.
In the end, however, defensive lapses at crucial times and the Hurricanes' ability to turn attack into points when it mattered sealed the game for them.
The Kings fell behind 10-0 early in the game and were under pressure for long periods as they gave up metres on defence way too easily. Once they rectified that in the second half the game changed, and suddenly they found their momentum to come within six points of the Hurricanes at one stage, before two late tries took their chances of victory away.
Prop Ben May struck the first blow for the home side as he ghosted through a gap to score the first try and it wasn’t long afterwards that Beauden Barritt had made it 10-0 after a conversion and penalty.
The Kings soon struck back as May left a gaping hole on the side of a ruck, allowing Sykes to move into the gap and run in untouched for his try.
Still, the momentum was very much with the home side and they found metres at will on attack, with an eventual loop pass to Conrad Smith extending the lead to 10 points again in the 20th minute.
Demetri Catrakilis reduced the lead again with two quick penalties, but the Kings' defence leaked another try on the half hour as TJ Perenara went over from close range. Jeremy Thrush added another for the home side on the stroke of halftime for a 29-16 lead that was both well-deserved and a fair reflection of the game.
The Kings upped their attack in the second half and became a lot more resolute on defence, with their reward coming in the form of Ronnie Cooke, who also had an exceptional game, taking a perfect pass from George Whitehead to reduce the deficit to just six points and give the visitors a chance.
The Canes survived some heavy onslaughts on defence to keep the Kings out and when they had their chance they struck hard.
Brad Shields broke two tackles to run in untouched before Alapati Leiua took an intercept to make the result safe.
The Canes did the job they came to do, but won’t be happy with some of their disjointed play, while the Kings, ever improving, were full of heart. If only they had a few more gamebreakers the result could have been different.
Here are the post-match interviews, which couldn't be aired due to time restraints.
Hurricanes – Tries: Ben May, Conrad Smith, TJ Perenara, Jeremy Thrush, Brad Shields, Alapati Leiua. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (5). Penalties: Barrett (2).
Kings – Tries: Steven Sykes, Ronnie Cooke, Hannes Franklin. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2), George Whitehead. Penalties: Catrakilis (3).