The Hurricanes scored three tries in a twelve-minute spell in the second half and deserved their 41-29 victory in Wellington and the bonus point that went with it.
In the wet conditions both teams played some breathless, attractive rugby, often end-to-end, and the game ended in a gallant effort by the Waratahs to score a try in the corner that would have earned them two bonus points.
But it wasn’t to be.
The Waratahs shot themselves in the foot several times in the game and the Hurricanes used good thinking and great skill to take advantage and turn the opportunities into points.
After twelve minutes the Tahs passed the ball into touch then dropped a high ball box-kicked from the lineout. The Canes recovered the ball and dispatched it with good hands to Julian Savea who was in like Flynn. It was an omen of things to come.
But at 21 minutes Bernard Foley ran through a lot of his opponents as though he was covered in snakes and spiders to score under the posts for the Tahs, untouched. After the conversions and some penalty kicks the Hurricanes led the Waratahs 19-16 at half time.
It was noticeable that the Kiwis had more presence at the breakdown: not only in numbers, when needed, but also in the power of the effort.
19-year-old Ardie Savea, brother of All Black Julian, charged into Waratahs rucks as though he was obsessed with getting a ball back that belonged to him. By contrast most of the Waratahs’ forwards were like spectators; that is, when they got there soon enough to have a look.
But the Tahs looked good around the rucks with passes back and fro and bamboozled the Kiwis when the ball was kept alive.
Then after oranges there was a series of unfortunate events for the Waratahs, which were self-inflicted.
A dropped Tahs’ ball eventually led to some clever interplay of Beauden Barrett with Conrad Smith, who slipped the ball to LHP Reggie Goodes 20 metres out for him to run in and score.
Then a Tahs’ kick from the 22 did not go out; Julian Savea charged up the field with the pill and soon after Barrett grubbered it precisely for hooker, ‘Motoring’ Moto Matu’u, to score in the corner.
Then a Sonny Bill-style pass by the Tahs that was never ‘on’ went forward. Seconds later TJ Perenara chipped perfectly for Julian Savea who juggled the pill like he was in a circus, and was in for his second try. This meant that at 55 minutes the Hurricanes lead 38-19.
After Adam Ashley-Cooper and Israel Folau had scored unconverted tries for the Tahs, and the Canes had slotted a penalty goal, it was Hurricanes 41-29.
There were six minutes left for the Tahs to score a try for two bonus points. Michael Hooper went for the corner but got bundled into touch. Game over.
The Hurricanes deserved their win. They were better in all aspects of the game excepting set pieces. In particular, they were more accurate in kicking from hand and at goal, in their variety and execution of restarts, dominating tackles, and getting numbers to the ruck when it was necessary.
Full marks to the Waratahs for coming back in the last quarter and showing what might have been.
The Game Changer
In the second half the Waratahs turned the ball over seven times in a 20-minute spell.
In brilliant style three of those turnovers were turned into tries by the Canes, in the space of twelve minutes.
The G&GR MOTM
For the Waratahs Bernard Foley was dangerous but made his share of blunders. Hooper was the best of the forwards but he was edged byArdie Savea on the night.
Conrad Smith was like the conductor that the Waratahs lacked and 21-year-old Beauden Barrett had a commanding performance at first-five, and kicked his goals.
But the G&GR MOtM goes to the agile, juggling, fast All Black winger Julian Savea.
Folau did enough to confirm that he should be in the mix for a Wallabies Spring Tour squad by the end of the season.
All the props did the job against a Kiwi scrum but not a lot else. Hooper should have stepped inside at the end of the game instead of backing himself to score in the corner, but would have kept his place in Deans’s pecking order, whatever that is.
Ashley-Cooper is firming as the Wallabies’ outside centre and Drew Mitchell has his hand up.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Julian Savea (2), Reg Goodes, Moto Matu’u.
Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3)
Penalties: Barrett (5) Waratahs: 29
Tries: Bernard Foley, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau
Conversion: Brendan McKibbin
Penalties: McKibbin (4)
Cards & citings
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan