Cape Town - The Hurricanes have retained the Great Big Tui Cup in Eketahuna, defeating the Crusaders 41-31 in their first pre-season Super Rugby fixture of 2015.
According to the Hurricanes’ official website, the Hurricanes, with a strong opening quarter, surged ahead 17-0 and settled victory in that first 20 minutes.
The Hurricanes’ first try was scored by blindside flanker Brad Shields, who barged over after a series of pick and goes and some nice breaks by fullback Nehe Milner-Scudder and No 8 Blade Thomson.
Jason Woodward scored the Hurricanes’ second try, after slick hands from the backline. Woodward, playing on the left wing, crossed in the right corner, and then prop Ben Franks stormed through from 10 metres out to score popular prop's try.
The Hurricanes extended their lead early in the second quarter when Hawke’s Bay lock Geoff Cridge over from close range after a strong surge by inside centre Rey Lee-Lo who had a good game returning to Hurricanes colours after a season with the Crusaders.
Then Crusaders captain and flankMatt Todd scored from a pick and drive for the Crusaders, followed by a blistering 80-metre runaway try to Crusaders left wing Johnny McNicholl.
The Hurricanes scored their fifth try just before half-time, with prop Reggie Goodes picking and driving after a solid build-up.
Woodward slotted his third conversion just before halftime, putting the Hurricanes ahead 31-12 at the halftime interval.
As expected, both sides made numerous changes at half-time, including the introduction of Dan Carter for the Crusaders midway through the third quarter.
The game lost its momentum for long periods before Matt Proctor sparked the Hurricanes back into life, charging through the Crusaders midfield off a scrum sprinting 60 metres to cross in the corner.
Woodward landed the conversion to Proctor’s try and the Hurricanes led 38-12 with the third quarter break called for.
Carter made a big difference to the Crusaders, with fast, accurate passing and added urgency to the Crusaders’ backline that was often pedestrian.
The Crusaders broke through early in the fourth quarter, with Carter flicking a pass on to centre Robbie Fruean to dot down in the corner. Carter slotted the conversion to close the margin to 38-19 with 15 minutes remaining.
Replacement Crusaders back Rob Thompson made a sweeping run up the sideline and linked up with Fruean who raced in to score his second try. Carter pushed a more handy conversion wide and the Hurricanes now led 38-24 with about 10 minutes remaining.
Fullback David Havilli ran through to score another try for the Crusaders, converted by Carter, to make it a 38-31 with a few minutes to play.
The Hurricanes attacked the Crusaders line in the dying minutes. Awarded a penalty, Otere Black stepped up to the tee from 40 metres out and extended the score to 41-31.
The Crusaders played with vigour to the end, but the Hurricanes held on as some of the 4 000 strong crowd flocked on to the field for autographs.
Tries: Jason Woodward, Brad Shields, Geoff Cridge, Ben Franks, Reggie Goodes, Matt Proctor
Conversions: Woodward (4)
Penalty: Otere Black
Tries: Matt Todd, Johnny McNicholl, David Havilli, Robbie Fruean (2)
Conversions: Richie Mo’unga, Dan Carter (2)
15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Vince Aso, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 James Marshall, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Mark Abbott, 4 Geoff Cridge, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Ben Franks.
Substitutes: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Reggie Goodes, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Tolu Fahamokioa, 20 Mike Kainga, 21 Vaea Fifita, 22 Iopu Iopu-Aso, 23 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 24 Jamie Booth, 25 Otere Black, 26 Willis Halaholo, 27 Ope Peleseuma
15 Richie Mo'unga, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Kieron Fonotia, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Billy Guyton, 8 Jimmy Tupou, 7 Matt Todd (c), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Luke Romana, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Joe Moody.
Subsitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Codie Taylor, 18 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 19 Blair Prinsep, 20 Luke Whilelock, 21 Jack Stratton, 22 Tom Sanders, 23 Dan Carter, 24 Jed Brown, 25 Scott Barrett, 26 Alex Hodgman, 27 Nathaniel Apa, 28 David Havilli, 29 Rob Thompson, 30 George Bridge
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Stormers 39-31 Cheetahs
Hurricanes 41-31 Crusaders
Brumbies 19-24 Highlanders
Reds 13-28 Melbourne Rebels
Western Force 38-19 Asia Pacific Dragons