Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Hurricanes hold off a late rally to extend win streak

AFP, DUNEDIN, New Zealand

Mitch Inman of the Melbourne Rebels, bottom, scores his side’s first try against the Lions in their Super XV match at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

Photo: EPA

The Wellington Hurricanes held off a late charge from the Otago Highlanders to secure a 20-13 victory in Dunedin, New Zealand, yesterday and extend their winning streak to a club-record five matches.

The win means the Hurricanes are the only Super XV side still undefeated after five rounds, confirming they are a threat under new coach Chris Boyd as they chase a maiden title.

They scored two tries to one against the in-form Highlanders, who had won their three previous matches, including victory over reigning champions the New South Wales Waratahs last weekend.

Given the quality of the sides, the match was a dour affair that only came to life in the final 20 minutes, when Otago were trailing 6-13 and scrambling for a late breakthrough.

Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said he was happy with a win, but would remain grounded, despite the early-season success.

“We showed some mettle out there when we needed it, I was proud of the way we fought it out,” Smith said. “The Hurricanes have never won five in a row, it’s taken us 20 years, but we’ve still got a lot we want to achieve and this is just a step in the right direction.”

The game started surprisingly slowly considering the attacking options available to both sides, with the Hurricanes’ backline boasting no fewer than six All Blacks.

It was just 3-3 at the break after a scrappy first half as each side butchered try opportunities, with the Hurricanes held up on the line and the Highlanders penalized for obstruction.

The Hurricanes dominated territory 64 percent to 34 percent through the likes of powerhouse winger Julian Savea, but allowed attacks to falter through handling errors and penalties.

Wellington finally breached the Highlanders’ line after 49 minutes, relying on solid work up the middle for prop Reggie Goodes’ try rather than their trademark slick passing.

The Highlanders only period of sustained pressure with ball in hand came in the final quarter, but Hurricanes center Ma’a Nonu was outstanding in defense.

He saved a try with one tackle, then forced a turnover with another to kick-start a Hurricanes attack that led to T.J. Perenara scoring the decisive try.

Lima Sopoaga hit back with a 77th-minute try to narrow the gap to seven points and give the Highlanders a consolation bonus point.

Otago thought they had another try right on the siren, but it was disallowed due to a forward pass in the buildup.

LIONS 20, REBELS 16

Lionel Mapoe crossed for a match-winning try in the 78th minute as the Lions of South Africa fought back from 13-0 down to beat the inconsistent Melbourne Rebels yesterday.

The Rebels (2-3) only had themselves to blame for the loss in front of their home supporters, with flyhalf Mike Harris missing three crucial kicks as the Lions recorded only their second win in six games this season.

It looked like another road defeat for the South African conference’s perennial basement dwellers when center Mitch Inman and fullback Jonah Placid put the Rebels 13-0 ahead with tries in the first 12 minutes after an early Harris penalty, but those were the last points the Rebels scored for almost an hour as they failed to make the most of having the travel-weary Lions on the rack.

Elton Jantjies put the Lions on the board with a late penalty at the end of the first half to make it 13-3, with flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff closing the gap further four minutes after the break with the Lions’ first try.

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