Hurricanes 43-15 Sunwolves
They scored seven tries but defence was key to the Hurricanes bonus point win over the improving Sunwolves.
After an apparent try to Vince Aso was ruled out when the TMO – who, it must be said, had far too much impact on the match – saw a forward pass that the referee and assistant both missed, the Sunwolves scored first through captain “Labbies” Labuschagne, the Hurricanes running out of defenders after a fourteen-phase buildup.
Julian Savea soon struck back, scooping up a dipping pass from Matt Procter and going over untouched. A Sunwolves penalty had them up 10-7 before Beauden Barrett put his halfback Fin Christie into a hole to take the lead for the first time at 14-10. Reed Prinsep then crossed from a five-metre scrum move, Barrett converting again for a 21-10 lead at the break.
Jordie Barrett ignited the second half with a spectacular solo effort that started with a dummy on half way and ended in the left-hand corner with a bump-off along the way. The conversion missed but at 26-10 one felt a repeat of last year’s 80-point thrashing wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
Vince Aso was denied again when the TMO ruled that Ardie Savea had committed a shoulder roll, a previously unknown offence that had Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd waxing sarcastic about cuts of meat post-match.
The Sunwolves then took up residence in the Hurricanes 22 but weren’t able to convert any of the opportunities that created. Ironically their only points came from long range, wing Kenki Fukuoka chasing down a box kick that showcased his pace and featured a brilliant full-throttle pickup.
Aso finally got on the score sheet, replacement 5/8 (and former Rebel) Jackson Garden-Bachop picking him out of a big overlap. This was the first of three tries in the final seven minutes, skipper Brad Shields getting the second after a nice one-two with Aso off the back of a strong carry by Ardie Savea, and Aso the third after a Jordie Barrett line break and Ardie Savea pick and go created space on the right flank.
Ultimately the Sunwolves paid the price of not converting overwhelming territory (at one point the second half stat was 90:10%) and possession into points. Partly that was due to poor execution but mostly it was the ruthless Hurricanes defence that first kept them in the game, then allowed them to capitalise as the Sunwolves somewhat ran out of gas in the closing ten minutes.
Victory briefly had the Hurricanes top of the table but with the Crusaders subsequent win over the Brumbies they’re now second in the New Zealand Conference and hold the top wildcard spot, just a point behind and with a game in hand.
Blues 13-20 Jaguares
The Jaguares were superb in the wet at Eden Park and the Blues more or less oblivious to the basics of wet-weather footy.
Things didn’t begin well for the hosts, Akira Ioane binned for bringing down a maul and Augustin Creevy driving over from the subsequent lineout-option penalty.
The Blues did, however, dominate most of the rest of the half and scored twice: Tumua Manu found himself on the end of a Stephen Perofeta long ball for the first, then Matt Duffie somehow got the ball down despite having three defenders on him.
Down 5-13 at the break the Jaguares were totally dominant in the second half. Jeronimo De La Fuente ripped the Blues apart 15 minutes in, Emiliano Boffelli scoring after a quick recycle inside the 22. Tomas Lezana then scored off a Martin Landajo pass close to the line, the visitors now leading 17-13 which soon became 20-10 after Kara Pryor gave away a particularly needless penalty.
The Blues threw everything they had at the Jaguares in the closing stages but were guilty of trying to play dry-ball rugby in at times torrential rain, and didn’t really use the strong wind at their backs to any noticeable degree.
The Jaguares third win in as many matches in Australasia – and first ever against New Zealand opposition – sees them break into the top eight for the first time, somewhere many would say they should always be given they’re basically the Pumas in different jerseys.
Bulls 28-29 Highlanders
Outscored four tries to two, the Highlanders got home late – very, very late – thanks to perfect seven-from-seven kicking by Lima Sopoaga.
The Bulls dominated possession to the tune of 65:35% and forced the Highlanders to make more than three times as many tackles (170:50-ish) but were never able to put matters beyond doubt.
The Highlanders scored first, very much against the run of play, with two of the three Smiths combining: fullback Fletcher cleverly chipping into space and when the ball bounced away from him halfback Aaron showed some soccer skills to control the ball and touch down.
A Jessie Kriel grubber then created defensive havoc for the Highlanders, Fletcher Smith beaten by the bounce and holding back Warrick Gelant without the ball to get himself sin-binned and the Bulls awarded a penalty try.
Handre Pollard read a telegraphed lineout move to perfection, intercepting one-handed in heavy traffic and outrunning the cover. His conversion made it 14-7 before Sopoaga kicked the first of five penalties for a 14-10 half time scoreline.
The Highlanders regained the lead when all three Smiths featured: Ben with the touchline run, Aaron paying the link role and giving the final pass to Fletcher, who had made the initial pass in the movement, for an easy run-in. Sopoaga added the extras and with a penalty either side of the try gave his team an improbable 23-14 lead.
Jason Jenkins reduced the deficit with a try, launching himself from the back of a ruck after sustained pressure, before Sopoaga clawed three back with another penalty to make it 26-21 going into the last quarter.
The Bulls appeared to have sealed the match when Pollard put Kriel over with a short ball and converted to make it 28-26 with four minutes left. Replacement Nic de Jäger conceded the final penalty of the match some 45 metres out and about twelve metres from touch, Sopoaga banging it over to snatch the win.
The Highlanders are now third in the New Zealand Conference and fifth overall while the Bulls are officially ninth but are equal with the Jaguares on 20 points with a game in hand.
1. Crusaders 33 points (played 9)
2. Lions 31 (10)
3. Waratahs 24 (8)
4. Hurricanes 32 (8)
5. Highlanders 28 (8)
6. Chiefs 26 (8)
7. Rebels 21 (9)
8. Jaguares 20 (10)
If that were the final finishing order the quarter finals would be:
Crusaders v Jaguares
Lions v Rebels
Waratahs v Chiefs
Hurricanes v Highlanders
This week’s matches (times are AEST):
Chiefs v Jaguares 17:35 Friday
Hurricanes v Lions 17:35 Saturday
Stormers v Bulls 23:05 Saturday
Sharks v Highlanders 1:05 Sunday