The Hurricanes went into last weekend’s match against the Super Rugby leaders the Chiefs without holding anything back in what was another exciting fast paced match in Wellington winning 28-25 in the 85th minute to keep the final chances alive.
It was a great game with both teams spreading the ball wide at every opportunity and quickly recycling the ball at the breakdown to keep the speed of the game flowing from start to finish.
The first try of the game came when Chiefs No.9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow scored a soft five pointer after three minutes of play when he used referee Jonathan Kaplan as a decoy to score next to the goal posts.
His try was converted to No.10 Aaron Cruden to give the Chiefs at 7-0 advantage which was pegged back three minutes later when Hurricanes No.10 Beauden Barrett kicked his first of three penalties.
At this stage in the game the Chiefs had the upper hand but the Hurricanes were playing with a sense of purpose and it didn’t take long for Barrett and All Blacks centre Conrad Smith to quickly change the momentum of the game when they broke the Chiefs defence from inside their own territory.
The ball moved across the Hurricanes backline to Julian Savea who barged his way over in the left hand corner after 24 minutes of play for the first of his two tries to let the Chiefs know that this match was now becoming a battle.
At the 36th minute of the game with the score favouring the Hurricanes 15-10 after penalties to both Cruden and Barrett, Cruden attempted a penalty goal from 50 metres out which hit the upright and a good chase from the Chiefs gave them a five metre line out.
From this line out the Chiefs forwards used pick and drive to give their huge prop Ben Tameifuna his try to draw level with the Hurricanes 15 all.
But as luck would have it and with 23,500 screaming fans supporting the Hurricanes at home in Wellington they went into the break leading the Chiefs 18-15 when Barrett kicked a penalty of the stroke of half time.
The play from both sides in the first half was exceptional and at times exhilarating which was more satisfying for the fans when only one scrum was set which much be some sort of record.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was dominated by the Chiefs who were desperate to finish the regular season on top of the table and they had a number of good scoring opportunities but failed to get the football across the line.
It took 18 minutes into the second half for the first points to get on the scoreboard when Cruden anticipated his opposite number Barrett when he intercepted a stray pass to race forty metres to score under the posts which he converted to put the Chiefs in front 22-18.
A couple of minutes later with the game going from one side of the field to another Barrett drew the Hurricanes one step closer when he kicked his third penalty to trail the Chiefs 22-21.
The Chiefs keep the pressure on the Hurricanes when Cruden kicked another penalty goal to give them a four point lead 25-21 and what follows was an amazing phase of play that got the Hurricanes over the line and into final contentions.
With the full time siren already sounded the Hurricanes controlled possession and after relentless phases of play five minutes later their hooker Dane Coles seemed to have scored the match winning try an incredible five minutes later.
The match official took forever to make his decision in favour of the Hurricanes to give hope to their finals aspirations and move the Chiefs off the top of the Super Rugby table.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough with the South African games going to plan with no upsets which put the Hurricanes outside of the top six and they will be ruing their slow start to the season.
The top six Super Rugby teams to figure in next week’s finals fixtures is an indication of the strength of the three nations at the moment with Australia being represented by the Reds, New Zealand by the Chiefs and Crusaders and South Africa by the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks.