The Hurricanes threw down the gauntlet to the Stormers and the Waratahs by beating the Force 21-10 in their Super 14 match played at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday.
Dan Retief reports on www.superrugby.co.za.
The victory entrenched the Hurricanes in second place on the log three points clear of the Waratahs and five ahead of the Stormers – making it imperative for the latter to beat the former in their match at Newlands on Saturday night. (Kick-off 19.10).
On a bitter New Zealand winter’s day the Hurricanes eschewed their usual adventurous approach to grind out a win that gives them one foot in the semi-finals.
The Highlanders kept the ball close to the forwards to capitalize on their territorial advantage by scoring a try in each half, against a late solo effort by the Force, but would nevertheless have been disappointed at their failure to convert their many chances into a bonus point.
In part this was due to the wet and icy conditions but also spoke volumes for the committed and forceful defence of the Western Australians – for whom Drew Mitchell was outstanding as they repelled a number of threatening goal line situations by the Canes.
After Piri Weepu had drawn first blood with a penalty in the 4th minute the Hurricanes got their first try somewhat fortuitously through the irrepressible Andrew Hore in the 12th , the hooker, in typical fashion, putting a lock on the ball and burrowing over under a pile of bodies.
The Force had reason to feel aggrieved though because the Canes had got into an attacking position thanks to the intervention of touch judge Bryce Lawrence – the assistant referee waving a free-kick to the home-side because Matt Giteau’s quick throw-in had not gone five metres; in spite of the fact that there was not Hurricane player near him.
The Hurricanes continued to play the rugby demanded by the conditions and their positional and possession advantage allowed Weepu to edge them 16-3 in front before Hosea Gear scored the decisive try in the 63rd minute.
The Hurricanes had been hammering away in the red zone when finally they managed to complete a move – a long lineout throw to Scott Waldrom engineering the set-up in front of the Force’s posts and quick hands to the right making the space for Gear to skid in at the corner.
The platform had been built for the Hurricanes to push for the bonus point but instead the final score fell to the Force as the ever alert Cameron Shepherd tapped a penalty to himself, kicked the ball into space, and then won the race to the touch-down against Waldrom.
Hurricanes (10) 21: Tries by Andrew Hore (12 min), Hosea Gear (63 min). Piri Weepu kicked a conversion and three penalties.
Force (3) 10: Try by Cameron Shepherd (77 min). Matt Giteau kicked a conversion and a penalty.Tweet