The Cell C Sharks hosted the Hurricanes in our final home game of the Vodacom Super Rugby pool stages but the match ended in disappointment as the visitors secured a 30-17 victory.
The Hurricanes trailed almost every statistic, but managed, when it counted, to close off opportunities as the game ebbed and flowed.
Despite having barely a sniff of possession, it was the visiting Hurricanes who opened the scoring in the sixth minute, Jordie Barrett receiving the ball from his brother Beauden on our 22 and racing to score under the posts.
A lovely break from Lukhanyo Am took us into a strong attacking position before the Hurricanes conceded a penalty for off-sides which Curwin Bosch had no difficulty in sending through the posts. Barrett added a penalty for the Hurricanes soon afterwards for holding on to the ball to restore their seven point lead and then struck over a long range effort to take the lead to 13-3 after the first quarter hour.
He next quarter hour was characterised by some uncompromising defence from both sides keeping the respective attacking play at bay and some niggle entering the game as frustrations continued to creep in.
The Hurricanes were effective on attack, making some decent inroads at times and were rewarded in the final 10 minutes with a TMO-referred try that, with the conversion, took the New Zealanders into a 20-3 lead.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of territory, there hadn’t been much reward, but a carefully-crafted effort, combining great momentum brought from the du Preez twins before a patient build-up led to Lukhanyo Am drawing in the defence out wide before feeding Aphelele Fassi who raced over in the corner. A perfect touchline conversion added the two points that reduced the Hurricane’s lead to 20-10 at the half-time break.
We struck early in the second half, an important psychological blow, after the Hurricanes starting kicking the ball a lot more and a lovely, but patient build-up before the ball was sent wide, the outside backs combining well before possession was taken to the edge of the tryline where Juan Schoeman managed a powerful drive over for our second try. Bosch’s conversion meant it was a three point game.
The Hurricanes were starting to fade as far as scrums go, conceding two penalties at the set-piece, the second heralding a penalty that was kicked to touch for a drive that when released to the backline saw Makazole Mapimpi tackled into touch in the process of trying to score a try.
To their credit, the Hurricanes competed well for the ball on the ground and earned some relieving penalties, the second setting up points with Barrett pushing his side into a 23-17 lead with the final quarter left to play.
Moments later a break from their 22 saw the Hurricanes take possession into our 22 and then a score in the corner to push them into a strong lead, the conversion from out wide giving the visitors a 13 point lead.
With five minutes remaining, a late shoulder charge no-arms tackle into the neck area led to a red card for the Hurricanes but would five minutes be enough?
Unfortunately it wasn’t as the Hurricanes managed to hold out in the final minutes to secure the victory in an ill-tempered but competitive match.