Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Thomson leads Hurricanes to victory

Hurricanes players celebrate the try of Blade Thomson during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty.
Hurricanes players celebrate the try of Blade Thomson during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty.

HURRICANES 16
CRUSADERS 9

Take a bow Blade Thomson, take a bow.

In a war of attrition, it was Thomson, the barely-recognisable Hurricanes lock, who provided the two moments of inspiration that won his side the game.

The first was a dance, a skip and a hop that saw him find his way over in the corner after Beauden Barrett had thrown a huge skip pass. And the second, totally against the run of play, came with six minutes left when he ran onto a perfect Cory Jane grubber and then outstripped the covering defence.

That second try enabled the Hurricanes to claim what will go down as remarkably brave victory. They lost Victor Vito and Alapati Leiua to injury in the first 10 minutes and spent the second half pretty much penned into their own territory barely touching the ball.

And yet they won. What that says about both teams is hard to tell. That the Hurricanes won so against the odds suggests there is nothing wrong with their character.

But there is plenty wrong with their set piece.

As for the Crusaders, they didn't have their attacking game right. Again. It's been the story of their season and they will be pinning their hopes that everything will come together for them with the return of Kieran Read, Daniel Carter and, in a couple of weeks, Richie McCaw.

It will need to. They were lateral and unimaginative for much of the time. They barely featured in the first half at all - the urgency and intensity was missing until they were obviously roared at halftime to pull finger.

It was that kind of game, though - messy and disjointed with plenty of tension which can often see players freeze.

Both teams looked like they were full of All Blacks who were struggling to make the transition back to Super Rugby, especially the Crusaders. Tactically, they were a bit nothing in the first half. They kicked too much but their bigger crime was they just didn't kick well.

Of all the unwise things to do against the Hurricanes, kicking badly to their back three would top the list. Actually, it wasn't just the back three who constituted the counter-attack threat.

Barrett was more often than not the man who took the high ball and then carved up. Dane Coles wasn't too bad running from the backfield, either. Why they started down that road was a mystery but why they kept on it for so long when it clearly wasn't working was an even bigger head scratcher.

They were so much better in the second half when they held the ball for longer. Their scrum was on the ascendancy and the pack grew in confidence from their work in the set piece.

Read and Carter came on and the red machine had a healthier glow to it. There was a sense of the inevitable about proceedings. The Crusaders had all the ball. They had most of the territory and they were applying all of the pressure.

They made hard work of it. They chipped away at the Hurricanes rather than taking any serious lumps and couldn't find any real killer instinct.

They lacked thrust outside. They made a few dents around the fringes and when they bashed up the middle but it wasn't enough.

Matt Todd was always good to carry at pace and a few of the other big lugs were usually on hand to keep things going for a bit longer. But the wider the ball went, the less of a threat the Crusaders posed.Hurricanes 16 (B. Thomson tries; B. Barrett 2 pens)

Crusaders 9 (C. Slade 3 pens).HT: 11-3.

- Herald on Sunday

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