Hurricanes wear down Brumbies to reach Super Rugby semi-finals
Defending champions relentless in second half to beat Australian side 35-16
Defending champions the Wellington Hurricanes scored 20 unanswered points in a dominant second half to keep alive their Super Rugby title hopes and end Australia’s ACT Brumbies bid in Canberra on Friday night
The Hurricanes were relentless in the second term to overcome a 16-15 half-time deficit and end the Brumbies’ season in a 35-16 victory to reach the semi-finals.
The New Zealanders will face the winner of Saturday’s all-South African quarter-final between the Golden Lions and the Coastal Sharks.
The fired-up Australian conference champions, with Stephen Larkham in his final game as coach, unsettled the Hurricanes in the opening half, but were pinned in their own half in the second period as the Kiwis exerted enormous pressure to crack the home side wide open.
The Hurricanes’ biggest win in Canberra extended New Zealand teams’ record over Australian opposition to 26-0 this season.
Winger Wes Goosen scored a try double with other tries to Jordie Barrett and TJ Perenara. Barrett finished with 20 points, adding three conversions and three penalties.
“We knew they would come out with a lot of emotion and intent and we worked hard in the first half and came away with building pressure in the second half,” said All Black ace fly half Beauden Barrett.
It was an emotional comeback to rugby for cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano, who came on for the second half as a replacement for the Brumbies.
Hurricanes skipper Perenara paid a post-match tribute to Lealiifano: “I want to congratulate Christian for coming back.
“Everyone focuses on the game and the result, but when men like that come back with the fight he’s had it’s humbling to be around him and he’s inspiring not just to his team but to the rest of the rugby community.”
The Brumbies were over in the fourth minute through left winger James Dargaville before the Hurricanes pulled back to level with Goosen beating several tackles on a mazy run off a line-out win.
But the home team dominated possession and territory and hit the front again when hooker Josh Mann-Rea was awarded a try off a driving maul after several viewings by the TMO.
The Hurricanes gradually got back into their playing rhythm and were fortunate to score their second try to centre Jordie Barrett in the 26th minute.
Perenara’s pass hit prop Ben May’s head and propelled the ball over the Brumbies try line where Jordie Barrett won the chase to ground the ball.
Penalty goals from Wharenui Hawera and Jordie Barrett left the Brumbies with a one-point lead at half-time.
The Hurricanes lost front-rower Jeff Toomaga-Allen to a yellow card right on half-time when he was ruled to have tackled Hawera’s head.
Lealiifano made his long-awaited comeback from leukaemia at the start of the second half as a replacement for Dargaville.
But it was all the Hurricanes as they tightened the screws on the Brumbies and were rewarded with second-half tries to Perenara and Goosen to win convincingly.