It ain’t over till it’s over
By Roger Childs
Life is very unpredictable, especially Super Rugby games. The Rebels beat the Sharks 46-14 in round four and then the Hurricanes hammered the Rebels last week 50-19.
What would your pick be for the Hurricanes playing the Sharks in Napier? An easy victory perhaps?
No way, the South African visitors seemingly had it all sewn up 37-28 with 6 minutes to go. But the fat lady was still walking towards the stage, clearing her throat. Was there time for a miracle?
Yes indeed; with Ihaea West’s conversion going over in the 85th minute the home team just made it 38-37.
A pulsating first half
Well worked tries to Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape put Hurricanes ahead 12-3 after 17 minutes and it looked like the stage was set for a comfortable home victory.
But the Sharks were soon back in the game and with tries to Lukhanyo Am and Louis Schreuder the visitors were ahead 17-12 after 25 minutes.
Then Vince Aso latched on to an Ihaea West cross kick and ran 60 metres to score under the posts. But the Sharks were not done in this first half: Am scored again and Robet Du Preez, who didn’t miss a kick all night, duly converted.
Whew! It was 27-19 going into the sheds at half time. The crowd needed the break as well and wondered if the second 40 minutes could match the first. It did and more.
Hurricanes make plenty of mistakes
The home team was minus Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea, and TJ Perenara went off at half time with a knee injury.
However, it was uncharacteristic knock-ons from the likes of Jordie Barrett, Laumape and West, plus turnover balls and missed tackles which saw them punished by a rampant Sharks team.
It’s hard to know why they were thrashed by the Rebels in the fourth round, as the Natal based franchise crushed the Blues 63-40! last week. Their top form continued at McLean Park last night and they excelled in tricky running and excellent passing movements, and there always seemed to be support players to take a pass after breaks down field.
A number of times the Hurricanes were caught out with only two defenders against three or four attackers, and often it was only a last ditch tackle that kept the score down. Meanwhile the Sharks defence was resolute and often their hard tackling kept the home team behind the advantage line.
Did the best team lose?
Certainly for most of the match the Sharks were the better side, and spectators at the ground plus the tens of thousands of viewers at home, would have accepted that the Hurricanes went down to the better side on the night.
Years ago the Hurricanes advertising slogan was Expect The Unexpected! They are a team that doesn’t give up and in those final 10 minutes they started to get on top. It was the Sharks who were now making mistakes, a couple close to the Hurricanes line, and they gave away a number of penalties. Then they had a player sent off.
In the 77th minute West kicked a penalty to get the score back to 31-37. Finally the home team’s pressure paid off; with 84 minutes gone West set up Laumape for another try and calmly kicked the angled conversion.
The Hurricanes had got out of jail and are now top of the table.