Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Hurricanes knock over Cheetahs

Tim Bateman during the Super Rugby match between Toyota Cheetahs and Hurricanes at Free State Stadium. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Bateman during the Super Rugby match between Toyota Cheetahs and Hurricanes at Free State Stadium. Photo / Getty Images

Hurricanes 39
Cheetahs 34

Just when you thought the Hurricanes' season was over they found a way to give it some life.

Despite being smashed 48-14 by the Bulls last weekend the Hurricanes came out and knocked over the Cheetahs 39-34 in Bloemfontein this morning.

Behind the steady kicking game of Beauden Barrett, some scintillating counter-attacking play and the flash of TJ Perenara the Hurricanes picked up their sixth win of the season.

The Cheetahs, who had the bye last week, looked flat throughout much of the contest as they attacked laterally and couldn't find the drive to go forward.

The second half was where the action took place as the Hurricanes grabbed the initiative with tries through Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea in quick succession.

Barrett's five-pointer - his first of the season - was the opening try in the contest in the 51st minute and before you could get up to make a cup of tea, Savea produced an entertaining chip and chase to grab his fifth of the year.

Barrett missed both conversion attempts and being behind on the scoreboard appeared to kick the Cheetahs in to gear as they found their way to the line via giant prop Coenie Oosthuizen who barrelled over from close range for his first try of the game.

Replacement five-eighth Elgar Watts added the extras and the Cheetahs only trailed by three with the score at 22-19 as the game went in to the final quarter.

With the game in the balance, halfback TJ Perenara gave the Hurricanes some breathing space as he stretched out to plant the ball under the posts and his fifth try of the year gave Mark Hammett's men a 29-19 lead.

Stand-in captain Victor Vito then scored to give the Hurricanes the bonus point with 10 minutes left.

With the game seemingly safe, Oosthuizen completed his brace when he scored to bring the Cheetahs within two converted tries and when Robert Ebersohn crossed with only a few minutes left, the home side began to believe they could pull off the comeback.

But when Watts missed his conversion attempt the Hurricanes were left with a crucial eight-point buffer and Watts' late penalty was the final act of the game, which gave the Cheetahs a bonus point for losing by less than seven points.

Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith missed the game after he suffered concussion last week against the Bulls but was animated on the sideline in his temporary role as the team's water boy.

Considering the high-scoring tendencies of these teams based on their recent affairs, the first half was a mundane precession in comparison.

Last year the Cheetahs won a high-scoring encounter 47-38 in Wellington, while the Hurricanes won the 2011 contest 50-47 but today's game saw the whistle blow to end the first 40 minutes with both sides having scored 12 points each.

Those points all came from the boots each team's respective first-five eighths as Barrett had his radar working for the Hurricanes while Burton Francis missed an early sitter before connecting on his next four attempts at the posts for the Cheetahs.

The Hurricanes enjoyed a 10-minute period during the opening spell with an extra man after Cheetahs second-five Ebersohn was sent to the sin bin for intentionally knocking down a pass when the visitors were hot on attack.

Despite the numerical advantage in personnel, the Hurricanes weren't able to cash in on the scoreboard as the first half continued to be an even game.

Both teams had their opportunities but the game didn't open up as much as they would have preferred before the points began to flow during the second half where, eventually, the Hurricanes took the spoils.

The Hurricanes will now travel back to New Zealand where they host the defending champion Chiefs in Wellington next Friday while the Cheetahs will meet the Reds in Bloemfontein next weekend.

Hurricanes 39 (Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito tries; Barrett 5 pens, 2 cons) Cheetahs 34 (Coenie Oosthuizen 2, Robert Ebersohn tries; Burton Francis 4 pens, Elgar Watts 2 con, pen) HT: 12-12


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