SIMON BORCHARDT saw the Hurricanes keep their play-off hopes alive with a 23-22 win against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Replacement fullback Tyler Bleyendaal had a chance to snatch victory for the hosts after the full-time hooter but his 50m penalty attempt fell short and the Canes gained revenge for the 42-14 thrashing they received in Wellington.
This was a match the Crusaders should have won. They dominated the set pieces (the scrum in particular) and looked to be in control when they led 22-17 with 15 minutes to go. But two penalties from Beauden Barrett gave the Canes a win that moves them up to fifth on the log and almost certainly extinguishes any hopes the Crusaders had of topping the New Zealand conference (they are now 10 points behind the Chiefs).
The big question coming into this New Zealand derby was how the three-week break for the June Tests would affect both teams. The Crusaders had put 50 points past the Blues and Highlanders in their previous two fixtures, while the Hurricanes had smashed the Rebels by 60 before beating the Waratahs in Sydney. Would they be able to regain that momentum?
The Crusaders were also missing three of their All Blacks stars – Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Israel Dagg – while the Hurricanes were without influential scrumhalf TJ Perenara.
However, in Tom Taylor the Crusaders have a more than able replacement for Carter and the 21-year-old flyhalf kicked two early penalties having made a good break in the first minute that almost resulted in a try.
Barrett got the Canes on the board with a penalty, before Andre Taylor sparked their first try by chipping into space and regaining the ball near the halfway line. A couple of phases later, the visitors went wide and Taylor sprinted away after taking the inside ball. He found Conrad Smith close to the line, who took advantage of Julian Savea’s blatant obstruction to score.
The Hurricanes were dominating the breakdown, which prevented the Crusaders from getting go-forward ball, but the hosts were outstanding at lineout and scrum time and should have been awarded a penalty try when the Canes scrum disintegrated. Instead, they got a penalty that Taylor sent through the uprights.
The Crusaders finally got their try in the 28th minute when Zac Guildford brushed off the tackle of Barrett inside his own half before cutting back inside past Taylor. But Smith struck again just before half-time when he threw a dummy and went over for his second try that made it 17-16.
Taylor regained the lead for the hosts early in the second half with his fourth penalty, and then added another after the Crusaders scrum embarrassed the Canes yet again (loosehead prop Reg Goodes and hooker Dane Coles were promptly substituted).
The Hurricanes, though, hung in there, and Barrett’s two penalties edged them in front with six minutes to go.
Soon after the restart, another botched lineout from the visitors resulted in a penalty attempt for Taylor near the touchline but the ball went past the left-hand upright.
Bleyendaal then missed his chance to be a hero, and with hindsight, perhaps the Crusaders should have kicked that last penalty to the corner and attacked from the lineout.