Hurricanes squeak past Reds
Aaron Cruden (Gallo Images)
Wellington - An Aaron Cruden penalty on full-time saw the struggling Hurricanes snatch an upset 28-26 victory from the competition powerhouse, the Reds, in their Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday.
In only their third win of the season the Hurricanes knocked the Reds off the top of the ladder while earning a bonus point for scoring four tries to lift themselves from 14th to eighth.
After running up a commanding 22-5 lead by half-time, the Hurricanes saw their dominance whittled away through the second spell and they eventually slipped behind 26-25 when Quade Cooper landed a 70th minute penalty.
Then with time fast running out they fought their way back into Reds territory, won a penalty 35 metres from the posts, and Cruden made amends for an off night with the boot by landing the shot that gave them the win.
The victory was all the more memorable for captain Andrew Hore, who was celebrating his 100th Super game, as it was achieved without their star backs Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane who were all injured.
"We'd sort of been written off and we came out and played some good footy. When you look at the backline we finished off with, I think Hosea Gear had twice as many caps as the rest of them put together," an elated Hore said.
"Obviously we're pretty pleased with that effort. To get back from South Africa and play the top side on the table and tip them over is obviously pretty special."
The Reds opened with a roar, with Will Chambers and Mike Harris opening up the novice Hurricanes backs with their first touch of the ball to set up Scott Higginbotham for a try with just over a minute on the clock.
But the Reds were soon to learn they would not romp away with the game and instead quickly became flustered as the Hurricanes regrouped.
The home side mounted a constant wave of attacks and the Reds defence, which served them so well in holding out t Waratahs last week, could not combat the Hurricanes' ability to offload in the tackle.
Faifili Levave, Cruden, Andre Taylor and Neemia Tialata all crashed over for tries and with Cruden landing one conversion the Hurricanes piled on 22 unanswered points.
Tough talking from coach Ewan McKenzie at half-time resulted in the Reds clawing their back into the game.
Two tries to Luke Morahan, one a superb 50-metre solo effort, coupled with a conversion and two penalties by Quade Cooper against one penalty by Cruden saw the Reds lead by one point in the countdown to the final whistle.
But when Cruden, who had missed four shots at goal, had a chance to make amends on full-time be made no mistake.
In next weekend's Round 12 action, the Reds travel to Melbourne to face the Rebels, while the Hurricanes are at home against the Blues.
15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Jayden Hayward, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 John Schwalger
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Julian Savea, 22 Beauden Barrett
15 Ben Lucas, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Van Humphries, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes
Reserves: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Kimami Sitauti