Julian Savea was sensational as the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders in Wellington.
The Canes won 29-28 after leading 12-7 at half time.
The Crusaders scored four tries to two and looked to have the match won going into the final 10 minutes. Momentum was with the visitors and scrumhalf Andy Ellis scored what would have been the match winner, but the try was disallowed when referred to the TMO because of a Kieran Read knock prior to the try-scoring pass.
It again highlighted the value of using technology to get more accuracy in try-scoring decisions. A season ago the try would have been given, the Saders would have won the game and the decisive score would have been one that should not have been awarded.
The innovation that allows for the referee to go back two phases works. The right decisions are being made.
The Canes took full advantage of the decision and responded almost immediately with a long range penalty from flyhalf Beaudan Barrett to reduce the deficit to six points and then pounced on an intercept for the match-winning seven pointer.
Crusaders flyhalf Dan Carter, with three minutes remaining, had the chance to win the match for the Crusaders but he missed with the easiest of drop goals. Carter is the world’s premier flyhalf and has been for a decade but the only mediocre aspect of his game is his drop kicking ability. He rarely kicks drop goals and in Wellington he showed why with the miss from right in front.
The Crusaders performance was an improvement from the shocker in Auckland a week ago but it still wasn’t a display that suggests they will win the tournament or even win the New Zealand Conference.
The pack was decent without ever being dominant and the backs were still too lateral.Ryan Crotty and Israel Dagg scored tries because of individual brilliance but the try of the night belonged to powerful All Blacks winger Savea who ran over Dagg, in a similar way the legendary Jonah Lomu buried Mike Catt at Newlands in the 1995 World Cup semi-final.
Savea was always dangerous and he troubled the defence whenever in possession.
Both teams were desperate to win for the first time this season and the anxiousness showed with nine handling errors in the first 15 minutes. The rest of the half lacked fluidity and neither side looked like scoring. Crotty broke the defence with a magical run and Savea put in a monster hit on Robbie Freuan.
The second half made for a better spectacle with Dagg and Carter showing improved form, but still nowhere near their international best.
The Crusaders are also way off past heroics and their inability to close out a game in which the lead was emphatic in the context of the game asks further questions about the hype around their championship chances.
The Canes got reward for discipline in defence and composure in the final five minutes.
By Mark Keohane