Sun, Jul 01, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Brumbies rally to upset Hurricanes

WIND POWER:The Waikato Chiefs overpowered the Otago Highlanders thanks to a strong first half playing with the wind, with Liam Messam dominating the encounter

AFP, CANBERRA

The ACT Brumbies yesterday upset the Wellington Hurricanes 24-12 to keep alive their Super Rugby finals hopes as the Waikato Chiefs blew away the Otago Highlanders 45-22.

The Brumbies ended a 13-match losing run against New Zealand sides and won their third straight game to fight back from 12-5 down at halftime to claim victory.

Their first win against a New Zealand team since 2016 took the Brumbies to within six points of the second-placed Melbourne Rebels in the Australian conference with two games left to the finals.

The loss was the Hurricanes’ third straight and left the Canterbury Crusaders nine points clear at the top of the New Zealand conference.

“Really pleased with the effort of the team, a quality opposition that tested us all the way,” Brumbies skipper Christian Lealiifano said. “We were probably guilty of kicking the ball away too much in the first half and when we held the ball we made some good meters.”

The Brumbies dominated the second half, keeping the ball in hand, and scored tries through Fola Fainga’a, Rory Arnold and Andy Muirhead.

The Hurricanes, who were without Beauden Barrett, Brad Shields, Vaea Fifita and Ardie Savea, now have their remaining games against the Auckland Blues and away to the Chiefs to keep second spot in the Kiwi conference.

“It was frustrating not to score in the second half, and at the back end of the halves we need to play better footy. Leading 12-5 at halftime we normally win those games,” skipper T.J. Perenara said.

Liam Messam relived his glory days as the Chiefs made best use of the wind to down the Highlanders in a free-running spectacle in Suva.

New Zealand derbies are traditionally closely fought affairs, but between the two sides challenging for fifth on the overall standings the game was settled in a one-sided first half that saw the Chiefs, playing with the wind, put on 42 unanswered points.

When the Highlanders had the wind behind them in the second half, they maintained the frantic pace set by the Chiefs and staged their own revival.

However, while they scored four tries and denied the Chiefs a bonus point, it was not enough.

Throughout, it was 34-year-old Messam who was the influential figure as he wound back the clock to show the same power and ability to be in the right place that first brought him to the All Blacks’ attention in 2008.

“That was a classic encounter of how to play with the wind,” Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. “We got it spot on in the first half and the ’Landers played pretty sharp with it in the second half, so we feel we were lucky we got enough in the first half to hold us in.”

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