An Aaron Cruden penalty on fulltime saw the struggling Wellington Hurricanes snatch an upset 28-26 victory from powerhouses the Queensland Reds in a home Super 15 match yesterday.
In only their third win of the season the Hurricanes knocked the Reds off the top of the ladder, while earning a bonus point for scoring four tries to lift themselves from 14th to eighth.
After running up a commanding 22-5 lead by halftime, the Hurricanes saw their dominance whittled away through the second spell and they eventually slipped behind 25-26 when Quade Cooper landed a 70th-minute penalty.
Then, with time fast running out, they fought their way back into Reds territory, won a penalty 35m from the posts and Cruden made amends for an off night with the boot by landing the shot that gave them the win.
The victory was all the more memorable for captain Andrew Hore, who was celebrating his 100th Super Rugby game, as it was achieved without their star backs Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane, who were all out injured.
“We’d sort of been written off, and we came out and played some good footy. When you look at the backline we finished off with, I think Hosea Gear had twice as many caps as the rest of them put together,” Hore said.
The Reds opened with a roar, with Will Chambers and Mike Harris opening up the novice Hurricanes backs with their first touch of the ball to set up Scott Higginbotham for a try with just over a minute on the clock, but the Reds were soon to learn they would not romp away with the game and instead quickly became flustered as the Hurricanes regrouped.
The home side mounted a constant wave of attacks and the Reds defense, which served them so well in holding out the Waratahs last week, could not combat the Hurricanes ability to offload in the tackle.
Faifili Levave, Cruden, Andre Taylor and Neemia Tialata all crashed over for tries and with Cruden landing one conversion, the Hurricanes piled on 22 unanswered points.
Tough talking from coach Ewan McKenzie at halftime resulted in the Reds clawing their way back into the game.
Two tries to Luke Morahan, one a superb 50m solo effort, coupled with a conversion and two penalties by Quade Cooper against one penalty by Cruden saw the Reds lead by one point in the countdown to the final whistle, but when Cruden, who had missed four shots at goal, had a chance to make amends on fulltime he made no mistake.
WARATAHS 28, REBELS 9
The New South Wales Waratahs kept their playoff hopes alive with a win in the wet over the Melbourne Rebels in their Super Rugby match in Sydney yesterday.
The Waratahs, who handed the competition newcomers a 43-0 trouncing in the first round, stifled the Rebels with a miserly defensive effort and ran over two tries in the last eight minutes on a rainy night at Sydney Football Stadium.
Fullback Kurtley Beale, who will join the Rebels next season, slotted three penalties and two conversions in a 13-point haul against his future teammates as the Rebels slumped to their seventh loss of the season.
Wallabies front-rower Tatafu Polota-Nau barged over the line for the Waratahs’ first try in the 12th minute, but the match then descended into a dour arm-wrestle as both teams struggled in the damp conditions.
Fullback Julian Huxley slotted two penaltys to cut the Rebels’ deficit to a point, but his direct opponent Beale added a penalty of his own in the 26th minute and the Waratahs held a 10-6 lead at halftime.