GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Hurricanes’ 29-26 win over the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday.
The Kiwi commentators raved about this fixture throughout proceedings, branding it ‘a highly entertaining spectacle’. But that would be an inaccurate summary of a match that was infested with poor passing, handling and ball retention, and a disregard for kicking in pressure situations as both teams persisted to attack from deep. This resulted in a more frustrating spectacle for most parts of the game.
The optimists would point to the five tries scored, but there were many more opportunities to cross the chalk which were spoilt by errant play and a lack of composure, and two of those five-pointers came at the death when the game loosened up.
The first quarter was a scrappy affair as both teams struggled to put five or more phases together. The Chiefs enjoyed most of the possession and created more chances to score, but they didn’t have the temperament to build an early advantage. The Chiefs eventually opened the scoring through flyhalf Stephen Donald as he targeted opposite number Aaron Cruden’s channel from 8m out and crashed over for the first try. After adding the extras, Donald traded penalties with Cruden for a 10-3 score line in the 25th minute.
The Hurricanes built some momentum and hit back through loosehead prop John Schwalger after several attempts to level the tallies. Donald slotted his second three-pointer to edge the Chiefs 13-10 ahead at the break.
The Chiefs started better after the restart added to their lead as flanker Scott Waldrom dived over from close range. After another frustrating period of play, Cruden kicked two penalties to make it a two-point game. The visitors then fell behind as the Hurricanes gained the ascendancy and put together a 10-point blitz. Replacement scrumhalf Tyson Keats sneaked in from around the fringes and reserve pivot Daniel Kirkpatrick added the extras and kicked a penalty for a 26-18 lead.
Chiefs replacement flyhalf Mike Delany kicked a penalty to bring his team within reach, but Kirkpatrick continued his impressive cameo with the boot by nailing his second three-pointer. Fullback Tim Nanai-Williams grabbed a late try to create an intense finish, but the Hurricanes managed to hold on for the win.