The Hurricanes put up a superb defensive effort to deny a determined Western Force side 22-16 in their Vodacom Super Rugby game in Wellington on Saturday.
The Canes scored when it mattered but had way less ball and played most of the match in their own half against a Force side that looked determined but couldn’t finish in the New Zealand capital city.
It was a top-class defensive effort that eventually won it, especially as the home side had to play the last 10 minutes with 14 men after James Broadhurst was dispatched to the sin bin for a repeated infringement at the breakdown.
In Broadhurst’s defence, the team was on a warning, but he was the unlucky one to cop the card which ultimately gave the Force a bonus point and some hope of still winning the game.
Still, under the determined leadership of Conrad Smith, and with players such as Jeremy Thrush, Brad Shields and Ben Franks looking superb on defence, the Canes used their fewer chances wisely to outscore the dominant Force three tries to one to win the game.
The perfect example of this was personified by Thrush, who manhandled Toby Lynn to steal the ball out of his hands at a lineout early on which led to the first try.
Beauden Barrett had already slotted an early penalty to put the Hurricanes in front when Thrush won the ball close to the Force line, and from the ensuing attack, it was prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen who spun out of two tackles to power his way over from close range and put his side 10-0 up.
The scoreline was totally against the run of play, and the anomaly was further underlined when Tetera Faulkner went close at the line, but was stopped short, something which was confirmed by the TMO. The Force did get a penalty though and Jayden Hayward put them on the board finally in the 28th minute.
Seconds later however, the Force were behind their own goalline again, as quick thinking from the Canes turned a quick throw in into a try.
The ball drifted into touch and a quick lineout throw from Andre Taylor was sent to winger Alapati Leiua, who motored through the crowd of approaching players and could probably have gone on his own after outstripping the defence. His inside pass to Brad Shields was spot on though and the flanker went over to score.
The Canes would have been pretty happy with the 15-3 halftime scoreline, and even more so despite conceding an early second-half penalty as they scored again in the second half to take their lead up to 22-6.
After getting their hands on the ball, the Canes took the attack through several phases until Tusi Pisi finally got his hands on the pill, and went over from close range to score the home side’s third try.
The Force seemed frustrated, especially as they were still dominating both possession and territory, but they finally got something to smile about as former Canes halfback Alby Matthewson received the ball from a lineout, and ghosted past the defence, then rounded the second line for a superb individual try.
For most of the move you waited for someone to tackle the New Zealand import, but it simply didn’t come and the Force were finally back in the game.
They attacked with gusto, but found that every time they came close, the Canes managed to turn the ball over. Twice they shunned a kick at goal, but eventually when Broadhurst was dispatched to the sin bin, the Force relented, and took the three points on offer.
With a man advantage, they still couldn’t make it count, and the Canes finished far stronger, despite losing their lock 10 minutes from the end.
Hurricanes – Tries: Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Brad Shields, Tusi Pisi. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2). Penalty: Barrett.
Western Force – Try: Alby Mathewson. Conversion: Jayden Hayward. Penalties: Hayward (2).