Hurricanes 35 Crusaders 10

On a night when no one knew what to expect, a bonus point record win for the Hurricanes was entirely in keeping with the mood.

Maybe it wasn't a surprise they won, but it was somewhat intriguing the Hurricanes were able to win as easily as they did.

Christchurch used to be a graveyard for all visitors and yet the Hurricanes turned up, got belted in a few early scrums and then set about out playing the Crusaders in all areas.

That's what surprised. The Hurricanes were more physical in the contact areas. Once they had their first few iffy scrums out the way and changed their props, they were steady enough there and had all the imagination.


They had too much pace and continuity for the Crusaders who were guilty, more than they will ever be happy with, of some truly soft one-on-one tackling.

Of even more concern for the Crusaders will be the way they were bullied out of the second half. The game was in the balance at the break and it was going to be won by the team who came out and took ownership. That was the Hurricanes.

They had all the ball, patience and variation to ensure they didn't waste the abundance of opportunities they created. They made it look easy and the final score wasn't necessarily an unfair reflection of the contest.

The Crusaders didn't have much to offer in attack. They really didn't have anything and, once they realised they couldn't smash their way up the middle, lost their way. They didn't have the same volume of individual heroes as the Hurricanes and it hurt them.

While the likes of Nemani Nadolo, Israel Dagg and Kieran Read battled away to be influential in patches for the home team, Dane Coles, Beauden Barrett, Willis Halohalo and James Marshall were all over the game for 80 minutes for the visitors.

The arrival of the Tongan bear, Loni Uhila, made a major difference as he was able to get his hands on the ball and drive endless tacklers out the way and get his side going forward.

And once that happened, they made good decisions, took control and the playmakers ensured the Hurricanes played their rugby in the right places and kept the pressure on.

They used their offloading well, made sure the passes stuck and never panicked when they got near to the tryline. They also played with a conviction they were going to get the bonus point.

The Hurricanes had decided that the risk of playing to win with a bonus point was worth it. They had surveyed the table and determined they might as well risk everything in trying to snare not only the New Zealand Conference, but also the overall No 1 ranking.

Their ambition was seen in the way they ran from deep. There were no simple exit plays from them with one crash up the middle and then a thump into touch. It was all about keeping the ball alive in their own 22m and probing for space. When they had the chance to kick for goal, they turned it down and instead went for the corner and backed themselves.

The Crusaders looked a bit bemused by that approach. It was as if they took it personally - that it wasn't about trying to elevate the Hurricanes up the table, more a sign the visitors didn't particularly rate their hosts.

It's easy to see why the Crusaders may have thought that: their only defeats this year have come against the New Zealand sides.

The Australians, South Africans and Jaguares have all been swept aside, but the best New Zealand sides have been too good for the Crusaders.

Hurricanes 35 (J. Woodward, TJ Perenara, W. Halohalo, C. Gibbins, B. Barrett tries; B. Barrett 5 cons)
Crusaders 10 (R. Crotty tries; R. Mo'unga con, pen)
Halftime: 14-10