The Hurricanes have taken the last remaining round robin points available to them in a victory over our boys in the capital on Saturday night.
In front of 17,000 fans, some there no doubt to see their veteran Dane Coles run out for the last time at home, the black and yellow turned things around in the second half to overcome a 19-8 deficit to clinch victory 26-27.
A late scratching of Mitch Drummond in the warmup meant Louie Chapman started at halfback on debut – a huge moment for the young man – with Joel Lam slotting onto the bench for another potential debut.
Scoring opened quickly through Leicester Fainga’anuku, on the receiving end of some beautiful cross-field play beginning from at least halfway. Some sublime touch from Christian Lio-Willie brought the ball across to find Richie Mo’unga who passed wide to Fainga’anuku for a dash down the left wing. He later found a chink in the defensive armour and crashed over from close. No extras from Mo‘unga and the score after four was 5-0.
A sure try from Codie Taylor was disallowed after some obstruction from John Afoa in his second and last appearance in the red and black, having flown back from France to bolster the stocks. Another line out soon after stressed the Hurricanes defences again but no dice for the Crusaders.
Twenty-one minutes and we find Codie Taylor at the back of a rolling maul. He bided his time before spotting the opportunity and beating two defenders to get to the line. Mo’unga with the extras and the Crusaders lead 12-0.
An attacking passage of play from the Hurricanes ensued and two try-saving tackles are worth mentioning. The first from Will Jordan on Kini Naholo, our man stopping a sure-thing just metres out. And Mo’unga a minute later, dragging Ardie Savea into touch just five metres from the try line. Huge efforts, awesome to see.
Jordie Barrett’s successful penalty in the 27th minute made it 12-3 before a few minutes later the scoreline blew out further. Lio-Willie cleared the ball from the scrum straight to Jordan who got it to Braydon Ennor. Showcasing his strength, he’s tackled but reaches for the line to dot it down. Mo’unga with the pair of extras and the score’s 17-3.
In the dying moments of the first half some brilliance from the Hurricanes – no doubt fuel for their chat in the sheds. Jordie Barrett collected a ball from the forwards only 10 metres out, he drew in two red and black defenders before offloading like a champion to Billy Proctor who dove for the corner and scored. Barrett failed to follow up with the kick and its 19-8 going into half time.
Hurricanes halfback Cam Roigard opened the second-half scoring in the 60th after some exceptional work from Savea. Brett Cameron found the extras and the score was 19-15.
Grind after grind from the Hurricanes was up against solid Crusaders defence, but they eventually made it over through Josh Moorby to give the hosts the lead, a touchline conversion from Cameron making it 19-22.
Joel Lam came on for Louie Chapman at around the 70 mark to make it two debutants right at the tail end of the season. Brayden Iose furthered the hosts lead a few minutes later, fending off tackles and defenders to touch down in the right corner. Cameron’s kick was off target and the score was 27 -19.
The match wrapped on a positive note for the boys, with Chay Fihaki getting his first try for the franchise after the final hooter. Mo’unga to Jack Goodhue off the back of the maul and Goodhue with a loop pass to Fihaki on the right wing. Extras from Mo’unga and its 27-26
We now prep for a Quarter Final against Fijian Drua on Saturday 10 June, kick off 7.05pm.