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Hurricanes on track for top-two finish with tough win over Moana Pasifika

By Finn Morton
Raymond Tuputupu of the Hurricanes celebrates after scoring a try during the round 13 Super Rugby Pacific match between Hurricanes and Moana Pasifika at Sky Stadium, on May 17, 2024, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Hurricanes remain on track for a top-two finish in Super Rugby Pacific this season after overcoming a valiant Moana Pasifika side 32-24 in a hard-fought battle at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Friday night.

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Following on from their agonising loss to the Blues in a top-of-the-table clash last time out, Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw made plenty of changes ahead of their first match back in the capital in two weeks.

With the ACT Brumbies not too far behind the Wellingtonians on the ladder, this was a match the new-look Hurricanes needed to win. There was plenty resting on this result, and it wasn’t going to be easy as the visitors showed early on.

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Moana Pasifika’s first five William Havili got the match underway at the iconic ‘Cake Tin’, with Hurricanes playmaker Aidan Morgan finding himself with the ball almost immediately. But once the underdogs got the ball, they didn’t really let it go for a while.

Early on in the round 13 clash, there was about a five-minute period where the ball didn’t go out of play and no stoppage was called. It was relentless, entertaining and almost tiring just to watch – it must’ve been a bit of a shock to the system for players early on.

Both teams had opportunities to develop some enticing phase play with the ball but they couldn’t get close to the line. But if anything, it was Moana Pasifika who looked more threatening as they made their way into the host’s 22 just after the six-minute mark.

But no points were scored.

There was a mixture of kicking and running rugby during the opening 10 minutes or so. It was still entertaining without a point being scored, but the Hurricanes appeared hungry – if not eager – to get the point-scoring underway in style.

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The Hurricanes were awarded a penalty in the 10th minute, but instead of opting to take the points from what would’ve been a relatively routine shot at goal, Aidan Morgan stepped up and kicked the competition heavyweights into the corner.

Lock Ben Grant collected the lineout as the Canes set up for a driving maul. The forwards flocked together and were met by an equally as desperate Moana pack in defence, but once the Pasifika players began to break off, an opportunity to strike beckoned.

Match Summary

2
Penalty Goals
0
4
Tries
4
3
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
130
Carries
124
6
Line Breaks
5
16
Turnovers Lost
18
8
Turnovers Won
7

Hooker Raymond Tuputupu broke through a gap, placed the ball down, and leapt up before triumphantly spiking the ball onto the Sky Stadium turf like an NFL player celebrating a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Shortly after, another front rower was on the scoresheet for the Canes with Siale Lauaki adding to the host’s lead. It was the prop’s first career try and the Hurricanes’ playing group made sure to celebrate the achievement as they flocked to the try scorer.

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Almost suddenly, after 20 minutes, the Hurricanes led 12-nil. They appeared to be in control, and they weren’t done just yet either.

Winger Dan Sinkinson, who had been quite brilliant throughout the opening quarter of the contest, created something special from nothing to eventually set up halfback Richard Judd for the Hurricanes’ third try.

“They know exactly what their teammates are going to,” sideline commentator Taylah Johnson said on the Sky Sport NZ broadcast.

“The counter-attack, Moana Pasifika don’t have an answer for it at the moment.”

19-nil. It was all one-way traffic – at least it was at that stage.

Poor discipline started to creep into the Hurricanes’ game and Moana Pasifika made the most of it. Moana Pasifika hit back almost immediately through prop Sion Mafileo from a rolling maul of their own.

Following a missed long-rang penalty attempt from Havili, the Moana players showed great character to fight back with prop Abraham Pole scoring in the 35th minute. Pole burrowed over from a pick-and-drive, having reaped the rewards of the visitor’s persistence.

They had trailed by 19, but now it was just a seven-point game. It was almost a half of two halves, or maybe more accurately just a golden 15-minute period from the underdogs which saw them pile on some genuine scoreboard pressure.

It was a tense start to the second term. Both teams settled in and looked to find their feet, but it was Moana Pasifika who just did that a little bit better.

Wing Fine Inisi scored about 11 minutes into the second half, and while Havili missed the conversion, it was then only a two-point contest. An upset, it seemed, was well and truly on the cards in Wellington.

But the Hurricanes aren’t widely considered one of the teams to beat in this competition for no reason. They had their backs up against the ropes but still threw a few haymakers of their own in a bid to land a telling blow.

Peter Lakai charged down an attempted exit kick just two minutes after Inisi’s try to change the course of the game completely. The flanker waited patiently for the ball to sit up as it bounced into the in-goal before diving onto it for the decisive score.

Aidan Morgan converted the try, and added a penalty goal to the Hurricanes’ lead about seven minutes later to give them a 29-17 advantage.

Moana Pasifika came close to scoring shortly after. In an eerily similar moment to Lakai’s try, Morgan had a kick charged down but it was reeled in by the Cans. Moana flocked to the breakdown and appealed for a try.

But no try was given. Instead, the visitors were awarded a five-metre scrum. They didn’t score though, but their time would come.

While the Hurricanes’ defensive wall stood tall for long periods, the underdogs eventually forced their way through with replacement Alamanda Motuga scoring with just over six minutes left to play.

The score read: 29-24.

With any result still possible, the Hurricanes received the ball. They were awarded a penalty soon after, with Aidan Morgan stepping up and nailing a long-range shot at goal to seal the win.

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Flankly 15 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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