Hurricanes stay unbeaten in Super Rugby, Rebels win at home
The Wellington-based Hurricanes equaled a franchise-record seven-match winning streak when they beat South Africa’s Stormers 25-20 on Friday.
Rising star Nehe Milner-Skudder scored one try and made another as the Hurricanes finished a dominant first half up 25-3, then had to hold out a strong rally from the Stormers, who made all the play and scored two tries in the second spell, capturing a consolation bonus point.
At Melbourne, Australia, the host Rebels beat the 14-man Queensland Reds 23-15 with the only points of the second half, and after former captain James Horwill was sent off and Wallabies and Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper injured his shoulder.
A length-of-the-field try scored by Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett just before halftime when the Stormers were threatening to score may have been the difference for the Hurricanes’ best winning streak in 12 years.
Center Huw Jones made a break in the 38th minute which carried the Stormers almost to the Hurricanes’ goal-line as they trailed 18-3. As they tried to quickly recycle the ball, Hurricanes prop Reg Goodes forced a turnover and set in motion a try-scoring move that swept more than 90 meters.
Backrower Brad Shields broke out of defense and linked with Ma’a Nonu, who brought pace to the counterattack. Nonu threw a neat, behind-the-back pass to Shields, who stayed in support when the Stormers’ defense began to yield, and Shields passed to Barrett, who scored and added the conversion.
The Hurricanes needed all of their 22-point halftime lead to hold out the Stormers, who dominated possession and had almost 70 percent of the territory in the second half. A penalty try from a collapsed scrum in the 48th brought them back into the game and a try to Jones in the 64th, after an earlier try was disallowed, put the game in the balance.
Kurt Coleman kicked a long-range penalty in the 74th to cut the lead to five points but, though they retained possession in the final minutes, the Stormers couldn’t achieve a winning try.
“Our set-piece, which has worked so well, had a few problems, and then the Stormers started playing really well,” Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said. “They were looking after the ball, weren’t making mistakes, and we weren’t getting the turnovers that we were in the first half, so it was suddenly a different game. But we held together, just.”
At Melbourne, Horwill was red-carded in the 20th minute for a swinging arm tackle on prop Paul Alo-Emile. He’d scored a try, and Queensland led 12-3 at the time.
The Rebels took advantage of the tiring visitors to end their worst run of home losses, seven dating to last year.
Cooper left the match in the 54th minute with a shoulder injury, and 10 minutes later, the Rebels ended a 15-15 stalemate with a sweeping 60-meter try, winger Sefenaia Naivalu offloading to scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker for the match-winner.
Hurricanes 25 (Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett tries; Barrett 2 conversions, 2 penalties), Stormers 20 (Huw Jones try; penalty try; Demetri Catrakilis 2 conversions, penalty, Kurt Coleman penalty). HT: 25-3.
Melbourne 23 (Tom English, Nic Stirzaker, Lopeti Timani tries; Mike Harris conversion, 2 penalties), Queensland 15 (James Horwill, Jake Schatz tries; Quade Cooper conversion, penalty). HT: 15-15.