The enigmatic Hurricanes completed their South African tour by burning the Cheetahs with six tries under a blazing Kimberley sun to revive their Super 14 semifinal charge.
Displaying a superior ability to strike from deep and from turnover ball, the Hurricanes scored three tries in each half to win 38-10 on Sunday morning (NZ time) and climb to fifth place with three games remaining.
It was a satisfying, if slightly flattering, end to their three-game South African campaign which was blotted only by their 12-20 loss to the Stormers last weekend.
RugbyHeaven NZ reports that the Hurricanes took time to adjust to the heat on a rock-hard ABSA Park but three tries between the 21st and 35th minutes – two of them of the freakish variety – sealed the result.
They earned a crucial bonus point with 25 minutes remaining when two young backs starting their first game combined, with first five-eighth Willie Ripia throwing a delightful short pass to winger Zac Guildford, who burst through two defenders.
Two tries in the last eight minutes put the icing on the cake for captain Rodney So’oialo.
“We definitely needed that five points as well, especially with the competition very hard this year and a lot of teams competing for the top four,” said So’oialo, the No 8 also named man of the match.
“The boys really worked hard to get that bonus point, it’s very well deserved today.”
He was tireless at the breakdown, along with Chris Masoe, who made a fine fist of converting from the openside to blindside flank in place of an injured Jerry Collins.
Prop Neemia Tialata was dominant at scrum time while lock Jeremy Thrush as a lively performer and fullback Cory Jane incisive throughout on counter-attack.
The match was even in most areas except the scoreboard, with the 13th-placed Cheetahs lacking the same killer thrust despite having their share of possession and territory.
They led 3-0 after three minutes and kept that lead for nearly 20 minutes before lock Jason Eaton shrugged off two defenders around the fringe of a ruck.
Moments later So’oialo intercepted a pass from Cheetahs flanker Juan Smith and dashed 55m but the hosts struck back through a well-worked try to winger Jongi Nokwe to trail by just four.
Second five-eighth Ma’a Nonu gave the Hurricanes a 21-10 halftime lead after backing up a break started 60m out by Thrush when he plucked an unexp ected chip kick by Springboks prop CJ van der Linde.
It was one of several mistakes that infuriated Cheetahs captain Smith.
“Whenever we took the ball we lost it. You can’t play this game without the ball, we lost the game out wide,” he said.
“They (Hurricanes) are a quality side, they’ve shown that through the whole season.”
The visitors were forced into a lengthy period on defenc e, highlighted by a desperate save from halfback Piri Weepu who used his boot to deprive Cheetahs loose forward Hendro Scholtz from grounding the ball over the tryline.
Jane scored a deserved try after a clever Weepu kick over a ruck before flanker Scott Waldrom burrowed over with a minute remaining.
The Hurricanes play their next three games in New Zealand, at home to the Lions and Force before finishing against the Blues in Auckland.
Cheetahs 10: Jongi Nokwe try; Conrad Barnard con, pen.
Hurricanes 38: Jason Eaton, Rodney So’iaolo, Ma’a Nonu, Zac Guildford, Corey Jane, Scott Waldrom tries; Piri Weepu 3 con; Willie Ripia con.Tweet