The Wellington Hurricanes maintained their unbeaten Super 14 record, but were flattered by the scoreline as they pieced together an unconvincing 33-18 win over the Golden Lions yesterday.
Although they secured a second consecutive bonus point victory, the ‘Canes were only a shadow of the side that produced an overpowering finish last week to demolish the Western Force.
After holding a 14-point lead at the break, they let the Lions back into contention at 21-15, before David Smith’s bonus-point try with 12 minutes to play.
The Lions slipped to their third loss, but they took heart from the visible improvement in the defense a week after leaking nine tries in the 65-72 loss to the Chiefs.
They nullified the potent Hurricanes back-line and Smith’s late try was the only one by the outside backs.
In the first half, the Hurricanes outscored the Lions two tries to one and bolstered by three Willie Ripia penalties they turned with a handy 21-7 lead.
Michael Paterson scored first, finishing off a move that he also started by stealing a Lions’ lineout throw, and Piri Weepu scored the second, with Willie Ripia adding a conversion and three penalties.
Earl Rose was off-line with two penalty attempts, but successfully converted Derick Minnie’s try for the Lions only points in the first 40 minutes.
The tone of the game changed immediately after the break, however, when Todd Clever exploited a lazy Hurricanes defense to score wide out and Rose added a penalty soon after to close the gap to six points.
With the possibility of an upset on the cards, Andrew Hore produced a solo captain’s try to take the initiative away from the Lions.
He received the ball 40m out and, from a standing start, bullocked his way through three tackles before selling Rose a perfect dummy to gallop over the line.
Rose struck another penalty for the Lions, before All Blacks centers Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith combined to open up the Lions backs and send Smith in for his try.
■BLUES 27, REDS 18
AFP, BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
The Auckland Blues mastered wet conditions yesterday to claim a bonus-point Super 14 win over the Queensland Reds.
The Blues made it two wins on the trot with a four-tries-to-two victory over the Reds, who had hammered seven-time Super rugby champions Canterbury Crusaders 41-20 the previous weekend.
Auckland controlled possession and territory in driving rain to fight back from a 13-8 deficit to claim their first win over the Reds at Queensland’s Ballymore ground in six visits.
The Reds got off to a flyer when Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia charged down a kick and sprinted 50m to score in the second minute.
Center Rene Ranger scored a powerful try for the Blues in the 32nd minute, bumping off up to six tackles to bulldoze his way over in the corner.
Quade Cooper’s kicking kept the Reds in front at halftime, but Auckland dominated early in the second half and ground out a 20-13 lead inside 12 minutes of the restart.
Lock Anthony Boric ploughed over for a try off a series of pick and drives from the Auckland forwards, and scrumhalf Alby Mathewson darted through for a soft try off a lineout win to open a seven-point gap.
Queensland, who lost Wallaby back Peter Hynes with a suspected broken wrist early in the second half, hit back, however, with a pushover try from prop Laurie Weeks in the 63rd minute to trail 20-18.