The Hurricanes produced their best performance of the season at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Saturday morning to see off the Cell C Sharks 38-22 in an action-packed match.
The high-scoring Vodacom Super Rugby clash saw the home side demonstrate why they are so tough to beat at home as they extended their winning record over South African opposition to 14 matches.
Disruptions did not help our cause, losing Curwin Bosch to a family bereavement and then his replacement Boeta Chamberlain and wing sensation Makazole Mapimpi both leaving early after failing the HIA test.
Jordie Barrett struck first blood, converting a penalty inside the opening 10 minutes of the game, but we struck back almost immediately with Aphelele Fassi making the initial break before Boeta Chamberlain – on Super Rugby debut – released the perfect pass to John Hubert Meyer who sprinted a few metres before offloading to his front row partner Juan Schoeman and there was no stopping him as he launched his way over the tryline.
Unfortunately the TMO called back play to a forward pass and the try was overruled.
Madosh Tambwe did get the try a few minutes later though after captain Lukhanyo Am snatched up an intercept with the Hurricanes attacking on our 22 and he sprinted 60-odd metres before feeding his wing with Chamberlain’s conversion pushing us into a 7-3 lead.
Sadly the Cell C Sharks lost one of our most potent attacking weapons when Makazole Mapimpi had to leave the field after taking a knock to the head and would remain off the field for the remainder of the match, with Jeremy Ward taking his place.
The bad went worse as Boeta Chamberlain then left the field around a quarter into the game looking rattled, just as a dominant Hurricanes scrum got their backs in place with the ball going wide for their opening try. Barrett converted from out wide to give his team a 10-7 lead.
The see-sawing nature of the match continued as Sanele Nohamba, the latest early replacement, made a lovely break and then the ball was taken through a number of phases with flank Tyler Paul closing out as he stretched over the line. Nohamba finished off what he started with a very good conversion for a 14-10 lead at the 25 minute mark.
The lead changed hands moments later with a good cross kick and field out wide to give the home team their second try with Barrett restoring his side’s three point lead.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Nohamba with the kicking duties, levelled matters with the Cell C Sharks’ first penalty of the game.
Although the match stats were overwhelmingly in favour of the home side, they had found themselves up against a visiting team with devastating attack mixed with some outstanding defence and 17-all was the half-time score.
The Hurricanes did not let up and were rewarded early in the second half with a break from the monstrous wing Pat Lam who broke through the midfield to score after a helter-skelter interchange leading to the ‘Canes’ third try and a 24-17 lead.
A good cross-kick saw Pat Lam in action again and the defence was no match for the giant wing to score in the corner with the conversion giving the home side an ominous 14 point lead.
There was a lull in scoring until the 65th minute when the Hurricanes managed to maul the ball over as the pressure they exerted was paying dividends and not much at all going our way. The extra two made it a 21 point game with a quarter of an hour remaining.
The Hurricanes overthrew a lineout on their 22 with Craig Burden snatching up the loose ball before it was recycled to Mzamo Majola who barged through the defence to score our third try and cancel out the Hurricanes’ bonus point.
There was an ugly incident when Nohamba was smashed on the ground and was lucky not to be knocked senseless but it gave us the chance to get out of our 22 and then work our way towards the Hurricanes’ tryline.
But the game would end frustratingly with endless phases and numerous penalties before the Hurricanes managed to thwart our attack short of their tryline to end the game on a disappointing note.