Hurricanes bag maximum points from Kings
TOBY ROBSON AT WESTPAC STADIUM
It was not a template for future success, but the Hurricanes won't care after banking maximum points with a 46-30 win over the Kings in Wellington.
Only the Hurricanes can score six tries and still frustrate their fans for such long periods as they did in extending their winning run to three matches in front of a 15,103-strong home crowd.
Credit to the Kings for putting up a fight, but the Hurricanes should have had this match sewn up well before flanker Brad Shields ran 25 metres down the blindside for his first Super Rugby try with 15 minutes to play.
Up till then coach Mark Hammett was chewing his fingernails as his side bumbled and fumbled their way through a forgettable 25 minutes as their 27-16 halftime lead dwindled to 29-23.
Had Kings first five-eighth Demetri Catarakilis not missed his fourth penalty attempt it would have been 29-26 with 20 minutes to play.
Instead the Hurricanes regained their composure in time to close out the match with Shields try, a Barrett penalty and an Alapati Leiua intercept try.
In the wash up it won't matter how rusty the Hurricanes were off the bye because they accomplished their mission.
First half tries to Ben May, Conrad Smith, TJ Perenara, and Jeremy Thrush banked the bonus point before halftime and first five-eighth Beauden Barrett methodically banged over five conversions and two penalties.
Less pleasing was their inability to close out the match in the second half after laying a pretty decent platform.
The Hurricanes could smell blood and after halftime it appeared to make them push too hard to find the holes they knew were waiting.
It was lazy rugby. Where the foot needed to be placed on the throat, hopeful and inaccurate passes crated a directionless 10 minutes that ended with Kings centre Ronnie Cooke scoring the Kings second try.
Suddenly 29-23 scoreline dredged up memories of last year's capitulation to the Cheetahs.
The Hurricanes effectively worked the Kings back into the match by handing over possession.
Hammett responded by pulling Perenara and Victor Vito, but it made little difference as the Kings continued to grow in confidence to the point they probably thought an upset was on the cards until Shields scampered over.
The Kings' defence was porous early and there were worrying signs for the visitors from the moment tight head prop May waded through several flimsy tackle attempts to score the game's first try after less than three minutes.
It was his first Super Rugby try, one that took all of 55 matches dating back to his Crusaders debut in 2007.
And May had further reason to smile when the Hurricanes pack shunted their opposites to earn a penalty to extend the lead to 10-0 in as many minutes.
The Kings battled away gamely at the breakdown and gained a try when lock Steven Sykes snuck through untouched after peeling off a maul to close the gap, but the signs were ominous.
The Hurricanes backs were easily gaining the advantage line and after Leiua chimed in from a lineout Tim Bateman threw a long cut out pass to put Conrad Smith over in the corner.
Catrakilis added three penalties before halftime, but only one side looked likely. Another Leiua incision created momentum for TJ Perenara to burrow over close to the line and lock Thrush gained the bonus point try on the stroke of halftime.
A late try to replacement hooker Hannes Franklin epitomised the Kings never-say-die attitude and closed the margin to reflect their efforts.
The Hurricanes will look for a more clinical effort when they host the Waratahs next Saturday.
The Kings play the Brumbies and Rebels before they return to the comfort of Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Hurricanes (Ben May, Conrad Smith, TJ Perenara, Jeremy Thrush, Brad Shields, Alapati Leiua tries, Beauden Barrett 5 cons, 2 pens) Kings (Steven Sykes, Hannes Franklin tries, Demetri Catrakilis 3 pens, 2 cons, George Whitehead con) HT: 29-16 Hurricanes
What winning margin and team are you tipping for the Super Rugby final?