Rugby: Big win for Hurricanes

By Daniel Richardson

Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith celebrated his 100th Super Rugby game with a win. Photo / Greg Bowker
Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith celebrated his 100th Super Rugby game with a win. Photo / Greg Bowker

When you're desperate, you'll take a win any way you can get it.

There was a festival feeling to the Hurricanes' 60-27 victory over the Cheetahs at Westpac Stadium this afternoon and while defence seemed optional for both sides, it was a much-needed confidence booster for the underfire Hurricanes.

After opening their campaign with three losses, backing up from dropping their final five outings last year, the men from the capital were desperate.

Coach Mark Hammett copped the burnt of the fan's angst during the past week and while his side were scratchy during skipper Conrad Smith's 100th game for the Hurricanes the desired result was achieved.

It was tough to know whether the victory was built on an improved Hurricanes' effort or the fact the Cheetahs aren't a great side given some of the personnel they were missing such as flanker Heinrich Brussow.

The paltry Wellington crowd of 8165 were treated to an entertaining spectacle, which featured openside flanker Ardie Savea's first start of the season, while first-five Beauden Barrett had his best game of 2014 with some nice individual touches.

Points were exchanged regularly throughout the opening 40 minutes as neither side showed a great interest in knuckling down to construct a lead and protect it.

Both teams have been known to enjoy moving the ball from all corners of the paddock and the game was reminiscent of the same fixture in 2012 when the Cheetahs tipped the Hurricanes over 47-38 at the Cake Tin.

Referee Angus Gardiner made sure he stamped his mark on the game when he produced a baffling yellow card for Cheetahs fullback Willie le Roux early in the second half for a so-called deliberate knockdown when the custodian was clearly going for an intercept.

Playing with 14 men was never going to be easy and the Hurricanes were able to extend their advantage from 29-20 to 43-20, while le Roux was forced to have a break.

What the result will do is buy time for Hammett, who has insisted that despite the slow opening to the season, his side are heading in the right direction.

The Hurricanes still have defensive issues, particularly in the midfield, but there were signs of promise.

The biggest cheer of the game came when Smith, who played the first half in a jersey without a number, crossed for a try in the 68th minute, which put an exclamation point on the result.

Smith did have a jumper with his trademark No 13 on the back for the second spell, although the reason behind the mysterious strip without a number wasn't readily available.

Tasman utility Marty Banks was given the final seven minutes at first-five in place of Barrett, who is not normally substituted, but given the healthy lead it was an opportune time to let Banks have a turn in the driver's seat, albeit briefly.

The Hurricanes travel to Dunedin to meet the Highlanders next Friday.

Hurricanes 60 (Beauden Barrett 2, Dane Coles, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Jeremy Thrush, Matt Proctor, Conrad Smith, Alapati Leiua tries; Barrett 5 con, pen, Marty Banks con)
Cheetahs 27 (Willie le Roux, Philip van der Walt, Francois Uys tries; Johan Goosen 3 con, 2 pen)
HT: 29-20

- APNZ

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