Hurricanes hang on against desperate Reds

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Reds have fallen agonisingly short of an historic upset in Wellington with a 38-34 loss at the hands of the Hurricanes.

For the third straight week, the Reds team that fronted up was unrecognisable from the side that played a week prior.

While conceding 38 points may not lend you to believe it, the defensive attitude was markedly better and it told, forcing the Hurricanes into uncharacteristic errors which kept the Reds in the contest.

Like a pesky flu Queensland hung could not be shaken, responding with tries every time the Canes threatened to kick clear.

The attack showed far more than it has all season, with a clear direction to drive the ball up the middle of the field accompanied with some added wrinkles of deception.Hurricanes debutant Peter Umaga-Jensen impressed. Photo: Getty Images

A brilliant ball carrying performance from Taniela Tupou and a stellar return to Super Rugby from Scott Higginbotham certainly helped, too, alongside a masterclass from breakdown maestro George Smith.

There was a better sense of urgency from the outset and some sloppy Hurricanes play helped through the early exchanges, Jono Lance slotting two penalties in the first 10 minutes to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

That was necessary as when the Hurricanes entered the Queensland 22, points followed.

Beauden Barrett crossed for a soft try off a stable scrum in the 7th minute and Ben Lam ran 10 metres through a Samu Kerevi tackle to cross in the 15th, triggering alarm bells in lounge rooms across Queensland.

But to the Reds' credit, they responded with interest.

Through a considered, pick and drive heavy approach backed by a series of solid scrums, they drove upfield and eventually crossed through Tupou - who dragged three Hurricanes over the line with him from short range.

The pick of the five first half tries followed in the 27th minute, as Samu Kerevi ran a superb line off a Reds lineout on halfway, busted the line and sent Filipo Daugunu over.Jono Lance and the Reds attack was impressive in Wellington. Photo: Getty ImagesThat handed the visitors a shock 20-14 lead but the Hurricanes kept their cool and while the Reds made them work for it, 12 phases in Queensland's 22 was enough to force an overlap, from which Blade Thompson scored.

With just a four point lead at the break, the home side kicked into fifth gear.

They peppered the Queensland line for the first seven minutes of the second term but two huge goal line stands couldn't stop Lam from scoring his second.

Daugunu had clearly been identified as a defensive liability and the Canes kept finding ways to put him in one-on-one situations with Lam, the rookie winger unable to curb his impact in any way.

While the Reds couldn't stop Lam, the Canes were having similar issues trying to wrap their arms around the pumping pistons of Tupou.Ben O'Keeffe had an impact once again in Wellington. Photo: Getty ImagesSome superb heads up rugby from Higginbotham pinched a turnover in the 53rd minute and the ball then found it's way to Tupou, who palmed Nehe Milner-Skudder and TJ Perenara while tiptoeing his way down the line before popping the ball inside to Jordan Petaia for an incredible try.

Six straight Ben O'Keeffe penalties kept the Reds pinned in their 22 for the next 15 minutes and despite some desperate defence, a sly pass put Sam Lousi over for what should have been the sealer.

But once again, Queensland responded.

They drove the ball through the middle of the field before a sublime Lance cutout put Kerevi through, narrowing the gap to 38-34 with four minutes to play.

But the Canes held on, the Reds losing their final chance to record a remarkable upset with a wayward lineout with 90 seconds left.

It stretches the trans-Tasman streak to 40 games but if there is such thing as a moral victory, this was it.

The Reds were embarrassed in Tokyo but they'll hold their heads high after this performance, a home showdown with the Highlanders next Saturday presenting another chance to snap the streak.

RESULT

Hurricanes 38

Tries: B Barrett, Lam 2, Thompson, Lousi

Cons: B Barrett 5

Pens: B Barrett

Reds 34

Tries: Tupou, Daugunu, Petaia, Kerevi

Cons: Lance 4

Pens: Lance 2