Flyhalf Beauden Barrett led the Hurricanes to a 25-9 win over the Chiefs in an all-New Zealand semi-final yesterday, ensuring the Wellington-based team will host Super Rugby’s final for the second consecutive year.
Barrett created the Hurricanes’ first try, scored their second, and kicked two penalties and two conversions to surpass 200 points for the season and outplay his Chiefs opposite number and All Blacks teammate Aaron Cruden.
The Hurricanes lost captain Dane Coles to a rib injury — a decision made just before kickoff — but overcame that substantial setback to reach the final as top seeds, as they did last year when they were beaten by the Highlanders.
A repeat of last year’s final remains a possibility as the Highlanders were due to face the Johannesburg-based Lions in the second semi-final later yesterday.
No. 8 Victor Vito scored one of the Hurricanes’ three tries, while scrumhalf T.J. Perenara had an outstanding game as Barrett orchestrated the Hurricanes’ attacking play.
The Hurricanes’ defense remains one of the best aspects of their play and they have now gone two-and-a-half matches without conceding a try. The Chiefs’ only points came from three penalties to Damien McKenzie.
“The boys were really pumped, defending for a big part of that game, especially for about 15 minutes in that first half,” Hurricanes stand-in captain Perenara said.
“That set the standard for us. They’re a very good Chiefs team and they threw a lot at us, and for our boys to be able to step up and make some tackles was big for us,” he said.
Barrett had a decisive hand in the game when he intercepted a pass in the 34th minute and dashed nearly 60m for a try which gave the Hurricanes a 15-3 lead approaching halftime.
Vito detached from a 5m scrum and dived over in the 48th minute, making the lead 22-6 and taking the match further out of the Chiefs’ reach.
The Hurricanes defense held strong, even when they were down to 14 men for 10 minutes during the second half after the sin-binning of winger Cory Jane for a deliberate knock-on.
“I think we came down here [Wellington] confident after last week’s performance,” Chiefs captain Cruden said.
“Unfortunately, we just didn’t front in enough areas,” he said. “We’ve got to give credit to the Hurricanes, they defended really well, applied a lot of pressure and at crucial moments they were just a bit sharper than we were.”
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