Rugby: Hurricanes remain in title contention

By Campbell Burnes

Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes celebrates scoring a try with team mate Cory Jane during the round 16 Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images
Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes celebrates scoring a try with team mate Cory Jane during the round 16 Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images

Waratahs 17
Hurricanes 28

The Hurricanes not only set the seal on a disastrous weekend for Australian teams in Super Rugby with their 28-17 win over the Waratahs, but they also stayed in outside contention to win the congested New Zealand conference next week in a rails finish.

It was never going to be a one-sided tryfest in Sydney, as the three other transtasman clashes transpired. This encounter was bruising, rugged, niggly and played for keeps. There were two yellow cards, one against either side. Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles appeared to be losing patience with referee Chris Pollock, and vice versa.

The Hurricanes will face the Crusaders in Christchurch next Saturday evening knowing victory there and the Chiefs falling to the Highlanders may give them the NZ conference title. In truth, they will just be happy to have escaped with the win from Allianz Stadium, where they did not always showcase their best work.

The Waratahs head to Eden Park next Friday night knowing they can still snatch the Australian conference crown from the Brumbies, but they will need more breadth to their inconsistent game to trouble the resurgent Blues.

The Hurricanes can thank an 11-0 early lead, 18 points from the multi-skilled Beauden Barrett and a lineout that disrupted the Waratahs' set-piece for their four competition points.

Waratahs' danger man, No 13 Israel Folau, hardly featured in the opening stanza, but then uncorked a superb solo try after 42 minutes, beating four Hurricanes with guile and power to convert his first and only real opportunity.

The unlikely figure of prop Chris Eves, who later knocked himself out, was the spark for Cory Jane's try, with an offload. Ardie Savea gave the last pass. The latter's brother Julian crossed soon afterwards from a long Barrett ball.

The first spell was divided into the proverbial two halves.

After some early lapses in concentration, the Hurricanes seized the initiative. The Waratahs were conceding penalties, and their lineout came under intense heat from the visitors.

Barrett scored the first try after a sweet chip over the top from Jane. At 11-0 to the good, the Hurricanes had a sound launching pad for a bonus point victory.

But then the rain came down, the ball got slippery, Julian Savea sought, mostly without success, to rediscover his mojo, and the Waratahs' scrum got going. They were aided by a try from a pick and go to wing Taqele Naiyaravoro, and then Hurricanes No 12 Willis Halaholo was binned for a high shot on Bernard Foley.

Foley and Nick Phipps almost combined to gift TJ Perenara a soft try in their in-goal, but Perenara knocked the ball on, as was confirmed by the TMO.

Flanker Michael Hooper was everywhere for the Waratahs and probably shaded Ardie Savea in their much anticipated battle of the opensides.

Pollock officiated his 201st, and final, first-class match. It was his 80th at Super Rugby level, and second in a row with the Hurricanes. The international whistler will retire and return to his teaching job at Hastings Boys' High School.

Hurricanes 28 (B. Barrett, C. Jane, J. Savea tries; Barrett 2 cons, 3 pens) Waratahs 17 (T. Naiyaravoro, I. Folau tries; B. Foley 2 cons, pen) HT: 11-10

- NZ Herald

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