The Wellington Hurricanes scored a dramatic late try to snatch a narrow 29-28 Super Rugby win over fellow New Zealand outfit the Canterbury Crusaders yesterday.
The Crusaders were on course for their first win of the season when they led 28-22 with seven minutes left, but wing Alapata Leiua intercepted a loose pass to score a second try for the hosts following Julian Savea’s brutish earlier score.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett converted from in front of the posts to put his side ahead and complete a personal haul of 19 points against the record seven-time champions, who scored four tries but also gave away a string of careless penalties.
All Black flyhalf Dan Carter had a chance to win it for the Crusaders, but sliced his drop- goal attempt wide of the left upright.
“That one could have gone either way,” Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said. “They’ll probably be disappointed in the way it slipped away, but we’ve had a few of those. We just wanted to hang in there.”
The Hurricanes lost 34-20 to the Auckland Blues in their opening match, before being edged 18-12 by the Queensland Reds last week.
The Crusaders remain without a win, although they collected the consolation of a losing bonus point and another for the tries from Ryan Cotty, Corey Flynn, Israel Dagg and Carter, who converted all four.
“We probably did enough at the start of the second half, but we let them back in it,” Crusaders No. 8 Kieran Read said. “They’re a good enough side to capitalize on our mistakes.”
The opening try owed everything to the individual brilliance of Cotty, who beat four men to touch down. The inside center dropped his shoulder to sneak between two players in the defensive line, shrugged off an attempted tackle from Tim Bateman and made it across the line, despite being caught by Leiua.
Carter’s conversion made it 7-3, but handling errors robbed the Crusaders of more points. Those errors proved crucial when Barrett knocked over three penalties to give the Hurricanes a 12-7 halftime lead.
However, the Crusaders went back in front when hooker Flynn went over from close range and Dagg outpaced the chasing defenders for a try following his hack downfield from a soft turnover.
However, Savea struck back with a try of sheer brute force, bursting through a challenge by Tom Marshall and repelling Dagg with such ferocity that the tackling fullback bounced backward off him.
Carter’s converted try made it 28-19, but Barrett reduced the deficit with a 46m penalty and Leiua got his team to within a point, leaving Barrett to win it with the conversion.
REDS 23, REBELS 13
Reuters, MELBOURNE, Australia
The Queensland Reds ground out a hard-fought Super Rugby win over the Melbourne Rebels yesterday to heap more second-half woe on their fellow Australians.
Ben Tapuai and Nick Frisby touched down for the visitors, who scored 13 unanswered second-half points in Melbourne, despite periods of sustained pressure from the home side.
The Rebels have now led at halftime in three straight matches and lost them all. Their only victory this year came against the Western Force in round one, when they trailed by a point at the interval.
Quade Cooper kicked the Reds’ other points, but was outshone in his head-to-head duel with James O’Connor, his apparent rival to fill the Wallabies’ flyhalf jersey against the British and Irish Lions later this year.