The Wellington Hurricanes survived a second-half fight back by the Western Stormers to maintain their unbeaten Super 15 record with a 25-20 victory at Westpac Stadium yesterday.
A 12-minute burst before halftime, in which they scored three tries, propelled the Hurricanes to a 25-3 lead at the break before they surrendered 17 unanswered points in the second half.
Their running game, effectively led by Nehe Milner-Skudder in the first half, fell away and it was only resolute defense that limited the Stormers to two tries.
“The basics were letting us down. The set piece which worked so well for us had a few problems and the Stormers started playing really well,” Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said. “They were looking after the ball and weren’t making mistakes and we weren’t getting the turnovers we were in the first half and suddenly it was a different game.”
One bright spot for the Hurricanes in their seventh win from seven games was the continued development of fullback Milner-Skudder, whose two late tries last week also ensured the Hurricanes overcame the Melbourne Rebels.
Against the Stormers the 24-year-old nephew of George Skudder and cousin of
Buff Milne — both former All Blacks — was a central figure in two of their three tries.
Milner-Skudder scored the Hurricanes’ first try when he raced through to beat the cover defense to a Beauden Barrett corner-kick, and set up the second try by slicing through the Stormers to send Julian Savea over.
The Hurricanes’ third try was a full-field effort from turnover ball when they were desperately defending.
Ma’a Nonu, playing his 150th Super game, led the break out with Cory Jane and Brad Shields also handling before Barrett finished off the move.
Barrett also kicked two conversions and two penalties to a penalty for the Stormers by Demetri Catrakilis as the Hurricanes went into the halftime break with a healthy 25-3 lead.
However, the nature of the game turned after the break as Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger led an improved ball-winning effort by the Stormers forwards.
The Stormers turned down three penalty shots at goal in their effort to get their first try and were eventually rewarded with a penalty try when the Hurricanes scrum collapsed on their own line.
Center Huw Jones, denied one try when it was ruled he took the ball from an offside position, made no mistake with his second opportunity and scored in the corner in the 65th minute as the game narrowed to 25-17.
However, despite holding a territorial advantage in the closing stages, the Stormers were held back by the Hurricanes defence and had to rely on a penalty by Kurt Coleman to get their bonus point.
REBELS VERSUS REDS
Reuters, MELBOURNE, Australia
The Melbourne Rebels heaped more misery on the struggling Queensland Reds by fighting back to grind out a 23-15 Super Rugby victory over the visitors, who had James Horwill sent off after 20 minutes yesterday.
Horwill and number eight Jake Schatz scored early tries to give the Reds a 12-3 advantage, but the game turned when the Australian lock was shown a red card for striking Paul Alo-Emile.
The Rebels took advantage with lock Lopeti Timani, wing Tom English and scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker scoring tries as they picked up their third win of the campaign while ensuring the 2011 champions stayed bottom of the Australian Conference.
A crippling injury list had been behind the Reds woeful start of five defeats in six games, but with many starters returning in recent weeks, hopes had been high of a revival.
They looked bright and focused in the early exchanges before Horwill’s indiscretion, the former Wallaby skipper’s swinging arm connecting with the tighthead prop’s head as he tried to clear Rebels players away from a ruck.
Horwill had already announced he was leaving to join English outfit Harlequins after the World Cup in October, with Reds supporters also awakening to news that fellow Wallaby, scrumhalf Will Genia, will also depart to join Stade Francais in Paris.
Genia’s longtime club and international halfback partner Quade Cooper had a poor game with the boot yesterday, missing two kickable penalties at the end of the first half after also fluffing a conversion as the teams went in level at 15-15.
Cooper then went off injured early in the second half, but the Reds held firm in the wake of increasing Rebels pressure before Stirzaker crossed in the 66th minute after a strong run and pass by Sefanaia Naivalu.
Code-hopper Karmichael Hunt came off the bench to make his first appearance for the Reds since a six-week ban for cocaine possession, but he was ineffectual in the final 13 minutes as Mike Harris kicked a late penalty to deny the Queenslanders a losing bonus point.
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