Super Rugby Aotearoa: Hurricanes edge Highlanders, Crusaders too strong for Blues

Super Rugby - Aotearoa
AFP
by AFP

The Wellington Hurricanes withstood a second-half comeback from the Otago Highlanders to record their second win in Super Rugby Aotearoa with a 17-11 victory on Sunday.

 

The home side had built a 12-0 lead by halftime and were 17-0 ahead shortly after, but despite dominating possession were unable to put clear air between themselves and the visitors.

 

In an incident-packed start, Highlanders scrum-half Aaron Smith and Hurricanes inside centre Ngani Laumape each had an early try disallowed for obstruction following video review.

 

The home side made good use of the blustery conditions to play mostly in Highlanders territory in the first half.

 

Captain TJ Perenara exploited a gap close to the ruck to touch down after 28 minutes for a try that could also have been called back had it gone to review.

 

Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon was shown being held down after being cleared from the ruck and opening the gap for Perenara to waltz through.

 

 

Hurricanes winger Cobus van Wyk gave his side a 12-0 lead just before the break when he tip-toed down the sideline, and flanker Devan Flanders increased the advantage to 17-0 when he crossed early in the second half.

 

Highlanders fly-half Mitchell Hunt managed to get his side on the board with a 51st-minute penalty before Aaron Smith crossed - this time legitimately - to drag his side back to 17-8 with 22 minutes remaining.

 

Hunt added his second penalty in the final minute of the game to secure a losing bonus point.

 

The Hurricanes host the Auckland Blues next week, while the Highlanders face the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.

RESULT

Hurricanes 17

Tries: Perenara, Van Wyk, Flanders

Cons: Barrett 

Pens: 

Highlanders 11

Tries: Smith

Cons:

Pens: Hunt 2

CRUSADERS vs BLUES

 

The Canterbury Crusaders, stung by what they felt was a dubious refereeing decision, stormed back to beat the Auckland Blues 26-15 and maintain a phenomenal home record in Christchurch on Saturday.

Victory in the intensely physical top-of-the-table clash in New Zealand's Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, left the Crusaders the only unbeaten team.

The Crusaders are now undefeated in their last 36 games at their home fortress where the Blues have not won since 2004.

The Blues saw a chance to rewrite history when they won a scrum penalty 15 minutes into the second half and took a quick tap which produced a try to Rieko Ioane, extending their lead to 15-9.

The referee rejected the Crusaders argument that they should have had the penalty because they had the superior scrum and the Blues were going backwards.

Incensed, the Crusaders charged down Otere Black's conversion -- a rarity in Super Rugby -- then cranked up the tempo to a pace the Blues could not stay with to retake control with a storming final quarter with two tries and a penalty.

"We saw it as a Test match," said Crusaders captain and All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor, while adding that even when they were behind on the scoreboard they remained confident.

"That was hard fought. They were on top for most of the game, really, but we knew if we came out in the second half and won those little moments we would get the job done."

Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu said they could not keep up in the final quarter.

"We seemed to be in it for three quarters then they applied pressure and kept us in our half".

As for the disputed penalty, Tuipolotu admitted the Crusaders were "probably the best set piece team and it showed the way they put pressure on us".

The Blues, on a seven-match winning streak, their best unbeaten run since they won 12 in succession in 1997, rattled the Crusaders at the start and were immediately on the front foot with a Mark Telea turnover.

Ten minutes into the game, they put first points on the board when a long cut-pass from Otere Black saw Talea score in the corner.

The Crusaders were not short of possession but an impenetrable Blues defence coupled with their own errors saw the Blues winning psychological battles.

It took almost half an hour before the defending champions moved the scoreboard with two quick penalties by Richie Mo'unga.

At half-time the Blues led 7-6 but were on the wrong side of the penalty count 8-3.

Black and Mo'unga traded penalties early in the second half before Ioane's try gave the Blues a six-point lead.

But when it came to the final quarter, the fired-up Crusaders proved untouchable.

They produced converted tries to Mitchell Drummond and Will Jordan, plus another penalty from Mo'unga while keeping the Blues scoreless.