McKenzie in good form for the ChiefsUmanga Jensen on the charge

Hurricanes prevail in Christchurch

By Roger Childs

With their 34-32 win over the Crusaders on Saturday night, the Wellington franchise ended the home team’s record of 30+ wins on the trot. Richie Mo’unga had the chance to even the score with three minutes to go, but his attempted conversion of Sevu Reece’s late try just faded to the left. Mo’unga had had an outstanding game, scoring a try and 12 points from goal kicks. However, the Hurricanes deserved their win with two tries to winger Wes Goosen and one to centre Peter Umaga Jensen, supplemented by classy goal kicking from fullback Jordie Barrett. 

The visitors were unlucky to have four of their top line forwards out and then lost prop Armstrong early on with an injury. Not surprisingly then, the Crusaders had dominance in the scrums and frequently pushed the Hurricanes back. On the other hand the visitors had the better of the line-out led by Scrafton, who also tackled strongly. 

One of the keys to the visitors win was their strong defence and Crusaders players often found the ball and the tackler arriving at the same time. Stars in the earlier games — Will Jordan and Jack Goodhue — were outplayed by their opposites and the normally reliable Goodhue missed three crucial tackles. However, the jinky running of Reece and Mo’unga created a number of attacking opportunities for the home team but this was matched by the ability to break the line by Hurricanes Ngani Laumape and Umaga Jensen. 

Close for the Chiefs

The team has lost all six of its Super Rugby Aotearoa games, but nearly got win at Eden Park on Sunday. The Chiefs forwards were within a metre of scoring in the final minutes but the Blues held out to win 21-17 in a close contest. The home team had raced out to 14-0 lead with impressive tries by fullback Matt Duffie and captain Patrick Tuipolutu, however the visitors then put on 17 unanswered points until in-form half back Finlay Christie scored in the final quarter.

Beauden Barrett converted all three tries and gave a very good all round performance playing at first five for the first time in the revamped post Covid-19 competition. It was an even contest in the forwards and for the Chiefs Lachlan Boshier did his all Black claims no harm with a well-taken try and a strong game in the tight and the loose. Akiro Ioane was equally impressive at number eight for the home team. At half back for the Chiefs Brad Webber was back to his best form and Anton Lienert-Brown also performed well – his superb pass to Solomon Alaimano in the second half allowed the left winger to run in a try in the corner and level the scores at 14-14. Chiefs full back Damian McKenzie was also in good form.

Plenty to play for

Wins to the Hurricanes and Blues have kept the competition alive and those two teams, plus the top of the table Crusaders, are all in the hunt for the ultimate prize. The South Island franchise is probably still the favourite, but their first loss on Saturday showed that are beatable.

The competition has been a great success so far, with crowds far exceeding the numbers from earlier in the year – there were 33,000 at Eden Park on Saturday. The quality of the rugby has been high, but inevitably in this tough, bruising competition here have been casualties, and from the weekends matches Ngani Laumape from the Hurricanes mid-field and Chiefs winger Alaimalo are out for the rest of the tournament.