The Hurricanes have sent a defiant message to those counting them out of contention this Super Rugby season, tipping up the conference-leading Chiefs in Hamilton, writes Christopher Reive of the New Zealand Herald.
With the fixture looking set to finish in a draw for the second straight season, an infringement by Chiefs replacement prop Reuben O’Neill after the final hooter gave the visitors a penalty 40 metres out; Jordie Barrett making no mistake off the tee to give his side a 27-24 victory.
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Despite going a man down for the second time in as many weeks, with TJ Perenara spending ten minutes in the sin bin for a high shot on Solomon Alaimalo, the Hurricanes were able to minimise the damage before finishing the game how they started – as the stronger of the two sides.
On a night full of handling errors and half-chances, both sides had to bite down on their mouth guards and take the frustrations that came throughout the game.
It was the Hurricanes who started stronger, producing the majority of the early pressure in the opening minutes. The Chiefs were able to withstand the initial onslaught from the visitors – who turned down an easy penalty goal opportunity to look from a try from a lineout, only to turn the ball over – but were made to pay soon after through left wing Ben Lam.
Terrific decision making from Hurricanes No10 Fletcher Smith put his side ahead before the break when he exploited a one-on-one match up with Aidan Ross to scoot across the line and leave the Chiefs prop clutching at air.
Both sides had near scores in the opening minutes of the second half; first, Barrett looked to have scored in the corner, however his try was ruled out as he and McKenzie were deemed to have grounded the ball simultaneously.
Moments later Chiefs right wing Shaun Stevenson bombed a sure try when he picked off a pass and tried to run the 60m to the line himself, choosing to ignore the multitude of supporting players on the inside, only to be taken down short.
However, the hosts took the lead back in the 54th minute through centre Tumua Manu, and their cause was further helped by the Hurricanes losing Perenara to a yellow card in the 57th minute.
Stevenson crossed the try line a minute later, but the Chiefs couldn’t do more damage with the advantage, while the Hurricanes got three points back through Barrett.
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The Hurricanes then tied the game inside the final 10 minutes, when hooker Asafo Aumua went over from a lineout drive.
With the scores tied and ball in hand, the Hurricanes worked hard to get in position to win the match. It seemed they were playing for a penalty, stringing together 35 phases with very little forward progress, before O’Neill’s infringement gave them the reward they were searching for – Barrett making no mistake from 40m out and in front of the sticks.
The result sees the Hurricanes firmly back in the hunt for the conference title, with bonus points the only factor separating them and the Chiefs.
– New Zealand Herald
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