Fullback Cory Jane scored a 75th-minute try to help the Wellington Hurricanes complete a scintillating 34-28 victory over a stubborn Western Force in their Super Rugby match in Palmerston North yesterday.
Jane’s try came after flyhalf Aaron Cruden had opened up the Force defense for the second time in five minutes by attacking the line. He also set up James Broadhurst’s 72nd minute try.
Cruden was also perfect with his goal-kicking, slotting four conversions and two penalties for the Hurricanes.
The Force had established an 18-10 lead by halftime courtesy of tries from inside center Rory Sidey and fullback Cameron Shepherd as the visitors exploited weak defending around the fringes of the breakdown and a massive territorial advantage.
Hurricanes inside center Ma’a Nonu had scored the game’s first try from a well worked back line movement, while Cruden slotted the conversion and a penalty for the home side, who had opportunities to score, but were guilty of forcing the ball rather than trying to build pressure.
Nonu grabbed his second try shortly after the break when he took the ball off center Conrad Smith, who was returning after six weeks out with a badly broken nose, and crashed over.
Cruden converted to make it 18-17, though the Force extended the lead when No. 8 Ben McClaman finished off a break from flyhalf James Stannard.
Cruden and Shepherd traded penalties, before Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst scored a try after a patient buildup and superb break and inside pass by Cruden, who converted to make the score 28-27.
Jane then scored his match-winning try and the Hurricanes defended desperately for the final four minutes as the Force attacked their line.
‘This match was an accumulation of all the stuff in the past and finally we’ve ended up on the right side of the ledger,’’ Hurricanes stand-in captain Victor Vito said.
He was referring to Wellington’s narrow or last-minute losses in several matches this season.
“Very disappointing ... for 77 minutes we played really well, but those last three [minutes] we let them in,” Force captain Nathan Sharpe said. “A lot of things worked well for us, but when they got down the other end of the field they scored points and that’s the telling stat.”
Neither side have a chance of making the playoffs with three matches remaining.
The Hurricanes are in last place in the New Zealand conference on 34 points, while the Force received a bonus point and moved to 28 points, third in the Australian conference.