Hurricanes beat Crusaders 16-9 in Super Rugby
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Lock Blade Thompson scored two tries to lift the Hurricanes to a 16-9 win over the Crusaders on Saturday, keeping alive their hopes of reaching the Super Rugby playoffs.
Thompson scored on 23 minutes off a floated pass from flyhalf Beauden Barrett to give the Wellington-based Hurricanes an 11-3 lead at halftime, then completed a double in the 73rd with a 60 meter-dash for the try that clinched the match.
The Hurricanes’ eighth win of the season lifted them from sixth to fifth place on a crowded championships ladder, just a point behind the Crusaders who took a bonus point to stay in fourth.
But the Hurricanes have only one match remaining in the regular season while most of their playoffs rivals have two.
The Crusaders, who have conceded first place in the New Zealand conference to the Dunedin-based Highlanders, have matches remaining against the Auckland-based Blues and Highlanders as they try to press claims to an eighth Super Rugby title.
The Hurricanes entered Saturday’s match without their regular captain, All Blacks center Conrad Smith, who broke his thumb during June’s internationals against England. They then lost All Blacks backrower Victor Vito to a calf injury and Samoa center Alapati Leiua to a knee injury inside the first eight minutes.
But they overcame those setbacks to dominate the first half, achieving a 69 percent territorial advantage as the lethargic Crusaders struggled to defuse their kicking game. The Crusaders were slow to react to the threat of kicks deep into their territory and to respond to the pressure of the Hurricanes’ kick-chase, at which winger Julian Savea was most effective.
The Hurricanes’ superiority wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard and they were lucky when Thompson’s first try allowed them to go to halftime with an eight-point cushion.
Crusaders fullback Tom Taylor was caught near his goalline as he collected a Hurricanes kick, the Hurricanes turned the ball over and Thompson came off the touchline to catch Barrett’s long pass and score.
Barrett had earlier kicked two penalties to reach 198 points for the season, beating his franchise season pointscoring record of 197 points set in 2012.
The Crusaders were much better in the second half, working off a strong set piece. Flyhalf Colin Slade kicked his second and third penalties to cut the lead to 11-9 before being forced from the field in the 47th with concussion.
He was replaced by All Blacks star Dan Carter, who made his first Super Rugby appearance of the season, ending a six-month break.
The Crusaders pressured the Hurricanes’ line but couldn’t score and saw the match snatched from them after Thompson ran onto a short kick from winger Cory Jane, won a favorable bounce, and ran 60 meters to score.
“It was a great effort, the boys just never gave up,” Hurricanes captain Jeremy Thursh said. “The boys worked so bloody hard on defense to keep them out.
“Set piece was a bit of trouble — they’re world class there — but the rest of our game we kept the attitude up and came away with a good result.”
Hurricanes 16 (Blade Thompson 2 tries; Beauden Barrett 2 penalties), Crusaders 9 (Colin Slade 3 penalties). HT: 11-3.