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Hurricanes' do-or-die gamble strikes big blow to Crusaders aura

By Ned Lester
Justin Sangster celebrates scoring the The Hurricanes' winning try. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

The Crusaders had lost just four home games in as many years heading into their round four fixture against Super Rugby Pacific’s table-topping Hurricanes. That contest didn’t play out in a way that was very familiar for Crusaders fans.

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With 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Crusaders looked set to pull off another late run home and steal a narrow lead before defending their hearts out to seal the result. However, after Riley Hohepa claimed that three-point lead with 70 minutes showing on the game clock, the Crusaders faltered.

The home team conceded two yellow cards and a game-winning try to see their winless streak to start the season extended.

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The team’s lack of leadership was taken into consideration by pundits when reviewing the lacklustre final stand, as they lost captain Scott Barrett to a finger injury last week while dealing with further absences of five key starters amongst other losses.

As for their opponents, the Hurricanes have proven once more that they are real threats for the title this season. However, it’s still early days.

“You’ve still got to keep growing,” former All Black Jeff Wilson said on The Breakdown after the Hurricanes win. “The big step up for them was it was in Christchurch and we know how hard it is to win there. The conditions were really challenging, it was soft underfoot and they overcame losing the lead.

“They got behind and quite often you just don’t score against the Crusaders. But, there’s a couple of things; it’s not often you see a team turn down points, turn down threes in Christchurch.

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“They had so much confidence and belief in their game that they didn’t want to go for the draw with three minutes to go, they said ‘We’re going to win it now.’

“In the first half, they had a gimme three in front of the posts. ‘No, we’re going to set a scrum because we believe in our platform’. Xavier Numia, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, whoa, that’s a front row that’s operating right now.

“So I look at them and go you know what, they should be really confident and happy with where they’re at right now because they’ve done something that proves a lot to themselves about who they are.”

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While that confidence was undoubtedly validated in the win, Wilson’s co-panellist and fellow former All Black Mils Muliaina said the difference wasn’t that they backed themselves to score, but that they executed with the game on the line.

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“I see it differently,” Muliaina began. “I think in some sense you have seen teams go to Christchurch and go to the sideline and not be rewarded. So, one thing they have got in terms of growing their confidence within the team is they’ve now scored that try.

“They can go and say we can do this. What that does is that belief goes up, but what else that does is asks that question of the Crusaders.

“What does that do for everyone else out there? They now know that perhaps the Crusaders are vulnerable because for years and years, teams have gone down there and turned down points and the Crusaders have not leaked them. They’ve actually defended and got out of trouble. On the weekend, that was something totally different.”

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