Hur­ri­canes end Cru­saders’ un­beaten run in Su­per Rugby

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The Christchurch-based Cru­saders lost 31-22 to the Hur­ri­canes yes­ter­day, for­feit­ing their un­beaten record in the fi­nal round of Su­per Rugby’s reg­u­lar sea­son and likely sur­ren­der­ing the No. 1 seed­ing in play­offs which be­gin next week­end.

The seven-time cham­pi­ons needed to beat the Welling­ton-based Hur­ri­canes for the sec­ond time this sea­son to hold out the chal­lenge of the Jo­han­nes­burg-based Lions for first place and the top seed­ing which guar­an­tees home ad­van­tage through­out the play­offs.

The Lions could claim that honor with a win over the Sharks in Dur­ban later. The Cru­saders ap­peared to have the match un­der con­trol when they led 22-14 af­ter 55 min­utes. But lapses of dis­ci­pline and de­fense al­lowed the Hur­ri­canes to re­claim the lead with tries to winger Wes Goosen and flanker Vaea Fi­fita, then to seal the match with a late penalty to new All Black Jordie Bar­rett. The Hur­ri­canes win lifted them into fifth place ahead of the Hamil­ton-based Chiefs who beat the ACT Brumbies 28-10 ear­lier on Satur­day. That means the Hur­ri­canes will face the Brumbies in Can­berra in next week­end’s quar­ter­fi­nals while the Chiefs have the more dif­fi­cult task of trav­el­ing to Cape Town to take on the Storm­ers. They beat the Storm­ers 60-21 in a quar­ter­fi­nal in Cape Town last year. If the Lions beat the Sharks to take the top-seed­ing they will face the Sharks again in Jo­han­nes­burg next week­end and the Cru­saders will host the sev­enth-ranked High­landers in Christchurch. If the Cru­saders re­main the No. 1 seeds, they will face the Sharks and the Lions will meet the High­landers.

The Cru­saders ap­peared at times yes­ter­day to have the mea­sure of the de­fend­ing cham­pion Hur­ri­canes. Winger Seta Ta­mani­valu scored two tries in the first 15 min­utes to give them a 12-0 lead and they were still ahead 12-7 at half­time.

“We gave away too many penal­ties at key times and we had our chances but didn’t con­vert them,” Cru­saders cap­tain Matt Todd said. “You’ve got to take your chances in big matches like this and we didn’t.”

Hur­ri­canes cap­tain T.J. Per­e­nara said the Cru­saders re­main the team to beat in the play­offs but he was pleased his team “put our­selves in a po­si­tion to play for an­other cham­pi­onship.” Ear­lier, full­back Damian McKen­zie scored a try among 18 points as the Chiefs beat a sec­ond­string ACT Brumbies lineup 28-10. The Chiefs held a nar­row 13-10 lead at half­time but kept the Brumbies score­less while adding two tries in the sec­ond half. “We were chas­ing the win and a bonus point on top of that would have been out­stand­ing for us head­ing into next week­end but that’s just the way it goes,” Chiefs cap­tain Aaron Cru­den said. “Bonus points have eluded us this year.”

Ja­pan’s Sun­wolves pulled off a re­mark­able turn­around by beat­ing the Auck­land-based Blues 48-21 only a week af­ter a 52-15 loss to the Storm­ers and two weeks af­ter their record 94-7 loss to the Lions. The Blues led 21-14 at half­time, mainly through an in­ter­cept try to full­back Michael Collins. But the Sun­wolves scored six sec­ond-half tries, in­clud­ing a hat-trick to cen­ter Ti­mothy Lafaele, to post only their sec­ond win of the sea­son, the third in their his­tory and their first over a New Zealand team.

The Blues vis­i­bly wilted in the sec­ond half as tem­per­a­tures reached 42 Cel­sius (107 de­grees Fahrenheit) in Tokyo. All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino was sin-binned for a high tackle in the 57th minute and the Sun­wolves scored two tries in his ab­sence. Lafaele com­pleted his hat-trick with tries in the 17th, 69th and 76th min­utes.

At Perth, Western Aus­tralia, the Western Force beat the New South Wales Waratahs 40-11. The Force are one of two Aus­tralian teams - the Mel­bourne Rebels be­ing the other - re­port­edly be­ing con­sid­ered for elim­i­na­tion from the 2018 com­pe­ti­tion. — AP

Hur­ri­canes in ac­tion

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