The Hurricanes came back from the dead to secure a 28-27 win in their Super 14 showdown with the Western Force in Perth on Saturday, a win that saw them move into the top four on the standings – for at least 24 hours.
Trailing 13-27 with 15 minutes to go and 16-27 with just two minutes left on the clock, the Hurricanes blitzed the Force to score two late tries in one of the most impressive comebacks of the season.
Rugby 365 reports that it was a game in which the Western Force played most of the rugby, doiminZted the first half and for 70 minutes looked like they had it all wrapped up.
Suddenly the Hurricanes turned up the heat, cut down on their high error rate and scored when it mattered most.
The Force, making good use of the width of the field and doing a lot of good work off the ball with some great support play, will be devastated that they had let this one slip.
The Hurricanes, who just had no rhythm and looked like a team at the end of a tour wanting to go home, will take heart from a win that keeps them on track for the play-offs.
The first scoring opportunity came in the fifth minute, when the Force went offside after a few phases and Willie Ripia made no mistake to give his team an early 3-0 lead.
Almost 15 minutes later the Force finally got some momentum and from some solid phase play, captain Nathan Sharpe forced his way over the line. However, the call went to the TMO, who ruled that he had knocked the ball on – a ruling that not only had Sharpe shaking his head in disgust,, but looked decidedly suspicious.
But the try was not long in coming, as – from a scrum – Richard Brown picked up at No.8, off-loaded to Josh Valentine and he drew the defence before putting Nick Cummins into a gap and the wing went over for the first try. Matt Giteau added the conversion for a 7-3 lead to the home team.
Ripia had an opportunity to close the gap soon afterward, but his 30-metre shot from nearly in front drifted well wide.
And he had another shot in the 29th minute, after the Force were caught offside, this time making no mistake – 6-7.
But the Force continued to play the rugby, taking it through the phases and showing some good off-loading skills – eventually putting Scott Staniforth over on the right wing for the second try in the 32nd minute. Giteau’s conversion attempt just drifted wide, but at 12-6 the Force had some reward for their dominance.
The rout continued as four minutes later Cummins went over in the left corner for his second try as the Force kept the ball in hand – taking it across the full width of the field – first hitting to the right and then back to the left – with good interplay between forwards and backs. Giteau’s conversion just dropped short, but at 17-6 it looked god for the home team.
But a simple mistake from the restart, as David Pocock failed to control, gave the Hurricanes a quick chance to counter and they made good use of the opportunity for Zac Guildford to score their first try. Ripia added the conversion and at 17-13 it looked good again for the Hurricanes.
But right on the half-time break the visitors suffered a blow when prop Neemia Tialata was yellow carded for a professional foul and Giteau slotted the penalty for a 20-13 lead at the break – also leaving the Hurricanes a man short for the first `10 minutes of the second half.
And within three minutes from the restart the Force scored their third try – as Ryan Cross used his speed and strength to exploit some ordinary defence. Giteau’s conversion made it 27-13 and left the Hurricanes with a huge mountain to climb.
Giteau had a shot at a drop-goal in the 49th minute, but it just drifted wide as the Force continued to dominate territory.
The Hurricanes, even though they were now back to their full compliment and seeing some more of the ball, struggled to get any momentum.
A perfect example of how the Hurricanes wasted their chances – the few they did have – was when captain Rodney So’oialo lost the ball when he tapped and ran from a penalty five metres out. He was tackled and lost the ball in contact, allowed the Force to relieve the pressure.
The Hurricanes captain did not make the same mistake when his team got their next penalty – this time gibing the ball to Ripia to have a shot at goal. The three points were added, but earlier opportunities meant their were still trailing by at least two scores 27-16.
With just about 15 minutes to go it did give the visitors some hope, but the high error rate continued to haunt them.
The Hurricanes did eventually find some rhythm and managed to hold onto the ball long enough for wing David Smith to force his way over for a crucial try with two minutes to go. Ripia’s conversion made it 23-27 and the visitors had chance for one last fling – needing a try for the win.
And it is exactly what they did. Winning a penalty, going for the line-out and then took it through the phases till fullback Cory Jane beat his counterpart Drew Mitchell in a one-on-one to score the winning try.
The conversion was wide, but it mattered not – as the Hurricanes took a crucial four points away for their 28-17 come-from-behind win.
Man of the match: Matt Giteau was his usual creative self, Matt Hodgson had a good workrate and Pocock made some crucial steal for the Western Force. But our winner comes from the Hurricanes, with captain Rodney So’oialo playing his heart out – even though he was often let down by his teammates. At least they came good when it mattered most – in the last 10 minutes.
Tries: Cummins 2, Staniforth, Cross
Cons: Giteau 2
Tries: Guilford, D Smith, Jane
Cons: Ripia 2
Pens: Ripia 3
Yellow card: Neemia Tialata (Hurricanes, 40 – professional foul, holding a play back)Tweet