Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Leiua stunner wins it for Hurricanes

TJ Perenara (C) of the Hurricanes celebrates with team mates after scoring a try gets his pass away during the round seven match between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images.
TJ Perenara (C) of the Hurricanes celebrates with team mates after scoring a try gets his pass away during the round seven match between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images.

Hurricanes 29
Crusaders 26

A thriller of a match between two struggling teams was settled by a stunning try from Hurricanes wing Alapati Leiua, the Crusaders having to settle for a losing bonus point ahead of their trip to South Africa.

For Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett, a former Crusaders player and coach, this bonus point victory in Christchurch tonight was manna from heaven.

First Take: Read stutters as Savea smashes

It was only their second victory of the season. He was under enormous pressure. Now the focus will turn to Todd Blackadder, who has won only two matches in five.

As well as being a rollercoaster ride of attack and big tackles, this was also a spiteful match.

There is little love lost between these two teams - many of the Hurricanes started their careers in Christchurch.

For Kieran Read, who had taken the field for the 100th time for the Crusaders, it was a double blow. He had left the field in the first half with an ankle sprain as the casualties quickly mounted. Fellow All Black Luke Romano went off with a calf strain and Hurricanes prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen failed a concussion test.

With Read off the field the Crusaders lacked leadership - confusion reigned at the finish.

When awarded a penalty which would have drawn the match with just over three minutes left, they dithered until finally electing to kick for goal. Tom Taylor's effort was short.

It was Leiua's try which turned it for the Hurricanes. With time running out and his team two points behind, he beat Johnny McNicholl, Sam Whitelock, Israel Dagg and Andy Ellis for a brilliant individual effort.

All Black Dagg was again disappointing for the Crusaders, who had Ellis and Wyatt Crockett, plus some better running among their backs, to thank for their efforts in clawing their way back.

The Crusaders had to focus minds and bodies after finding themselves 17-3 down mid-way through the first half, the Hurricanes beginning like they finished in their narrow defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend.

In try-scorers Julian Savea and Leiua they have two men capable of stressing any defence and the Crusaders were scrambling throughout.

First, loose forward Faifili Levave went over and then halfback TJ Perenara chimed in with a try of his own.

The Crusaders replied with two tries to wing Johnny McNicholl, the first a long-range effort when finishing off a Ryan Crotty kick ahead, the second a dot down in the corner as the home side piled on the pressure as halftime approached.

A Tom Taylor penalty with minutes to spare in the half gave them the lead for the first time in the match.

The Hurricanes started well again after the break with Savea scoring a converted try. Slade replied with a try for the Crusaders and while they took the lead again with a Taylor penalty, it just wasn't enough. They will await the prognosis on Read's injury with some anxiety.

Hurricanes (Julian Savea, Faifili Levave, TJ Perenara, Alapati Leiua tries; Beauden Barrett pen, 3 cons)

Crusaders (Johnny McNicholl 2, Colin Slade tries; Tom Taylor 3 pens, con
Halftime: Crusaders 18-17


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