The Hurricanes maintained their late push for a Super Rugby playoff spot with a 33-12 bonus-point win over the fading New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney yesterday.
The Hurricanes surged home with three tries in the final 17 minutes to claim an extra point and stay six points adrift of the second-placed Crusaders in the New Zealand Conference with two matches left for the Wellington-based team.
It was the Hurricanes’ fourth win in their past five games and came on the back of their 66-24 battering of the Melbourne Rebels at home the previous weekend.
The Hurricanes played without much of the ball for most of the second half, while the Waratahs, well down on confidence, could not come up with a try and all their points came from four Berrick Barnes penalties.
It was a gloomy night for the Sydney-based team, their sixth straight loss and their 10th of the season — their worst return in a Super Rugby season — as they count down the games to the end of a dreadful campaign.
However, the Hurricanes march on with two crucial New Zealand derbies ahead against the Crusaders and the Chiefs to decide their playoff fate.
The Waratahs’ tries came from Julian Savea, Motu Matu’u, Conrad Smith and Chris Eaton with flyhalf Beauden Barrett kicking two conversions and three penalties.
It was only the Hurricanes’ third win in nine matches against the Waratahs in Sydney.
The Waratahs’ dismal performance heaped further pressure on first-season coach Michael Foley, with the underachieving side fielding eight Wallabies in their starting lineup.
“We are very disappointed with the way we played tonight,” Waratahs’ skipper Benn Robinson said. “To be leaking 33 points is very disappointing. In years gone past we’ve been a strong defensive side, but 33 points, no matter how good our attack is, we can’t be winning those games.”
CHIEFS 41, BLUES 34
AFP, ALBANY, New Zealand
A record-equaling four tries to Asaeli Tikoirotuma enabled the Chiefs to cling to their Super Rugby lead with a win over the Blues in a frantic New Zealand derby yesterday.
The last of his tries, 10 minutes from the final whistle, proved to be the match-winner when he outsprinted former All Black wing Rudi Wulf in a race for the ball as it bobbled over the line. In a matchup between the best and worst of the New Zealand conference sides, the Blues went close to pulling off a sensational upset as they punished the Chiefs for ill-discipline.
Two converted tries in the second half when the Chiefs were again down to 14 men after their second yellow card saw the Blues lock the score up at 34 all before the speedster Tikoirotuma settled the outcome.
In his debut Super Rugby year, the flying Fijian became the 10th player to score four tries in a Super Rugby match and he kept the Chiefs at the top of the table with their 10th win from 12 matches.
The Blues took two bonus points from the match, but remain second from the bottom going into the three-week break with just two wins to show for their 13 matches.
Chiefs playmaker Aaron Cruden was a fixture in all the early scoring, which started when he landed an early penalty before he allowed the Blues to score the first try when he missed a crucial tackle on Francis Saili, who scored.
Cruden, who bagged 16 points from five conversions and two penalties, engineered the Chiefs’ opening try when he countered the Blues rushed defense with a deft stab-kick that Tikoirotuma pounced on for his first touchdown.