Hurricanes put Sharks to the Super Rugby sword
The Hurricanes really are that good. It’s been tempting to play down what Super Rugby’s top playoff qualifiers have achieved in recent weeks. But you can’t do that any longer after they thrashed the Sharks 41-0 to storm into the semi-finals. Kicking low was the sensible option, given the gale blowing at Westpac Stadium. The Hurricanes were superb and earned the luxury of substituting most of their big guns, with 20 minutes to play. The only dampener was an injury suffered by captain Dane Coles. The conditions were amazing. We hear plenty about how much the wind swirls within Westpac Stadium and this was one of those rare occasions when you could actually see. In theory, the wind was blowing down the ground. In practice, the combination of rain and floodlights showed the gale was going all over the place. It’s not often rain goes upwards, but this was one of those situations that it appeared to. It meant some passages of play became a lottery, as Sharks first fiveeighth Garth April would attest. His attempted three first-half shots at goal and couldn’t get the ball within a bull’s roar of the posts. Hurricanes opposite Beauden Barrett wasn’t having a lot more luck, kicking just one of his first three attempts. But he had the ball on an absolute string the rest of the time, as the home side took a 13-0 lead into halftime. Barrett has been in extraordinary form for weeks and these crazy conditions only underlined how well he’s playing.
After he’d kicked an early penalty, to put the Hurricanes 3-0 up, Barrett then unfurled a crosskick that left wing Jason Woodward took expertly. After beating a tackler or two, Woodward unloaded for Matt Proctor who was pulled down just short of the Sharks line. Prop Loni Uhila charged onto the ball from depth and over the tryline to extend the lead to 8-0. Four minutes later the Hurricanes led 13-0, after halfback TJ Perenara put fullback James Marshall over to score from a five-metre scrum. The going wasn’t easy and errors were plentiful. But, in the circumstances, Barrett and the Hurricanes were putting on a rugby clinic.
Rain’s one thing, but when it’s combined with wind this fierce, it takes special players to continue executing their skills to a high level. Players such as Perenara who produced two bits of magic to lay on tries for Woodward and lock Vaea Fifita. Barrett converted both and, after 51 minutes, the Hurricanes suddenly led 27-0. They were playing magnificent rugby, spoiled only by, what appeared to be, a rib injury suffered by Coles. He looked in acute discomfort and it would. on that evidence at least, be a surprise if he played again in a hurry. That the Hurricanes were able to immediately respond with the Woodward and Fifita tries was a good sign and the warm feeling extended to the crowd of 17,895, who gave wing Julian Savea a big cheer when he came on for Cory Jane after Fifita’s try.
Perenara was next to score, after a Uhila quick tap, to make it 34-0. Statements rarely come more emphatic than the one Perenara and his team-mates made on a wild night at Westpac Stadium. Hurricanes 41 (Loni Uhila, James Marshall, Jason Woodward, Vaea Fifita, TJ Perenara, Brad Shields tries; Beauden Barrett pen, 3 con, Jason Woodward con) Sharks 0. HT: 13-0. -
The Hurricanes celebrate James Marshall’s try at the Westpac Stadium, Wellington last night after defeating the Sharks.
Hurricanes fans brave the wet weather last night.