Brilliant try could spark Hurricanes' season
Alapati Leiua's intentions might have been small, but the ramifications of his brilliant match-winning try against the Crusaders could be enormous for the Hurricanes.
In the space of 50 metres the Samoan international changed a match and possibly a season as he left at least five red and black defenders sprawling in his wake.
Seven weeks into Super Rugby it may well end up being the try of the season and not just because it turned a 26-24 deficit into a 29-26 bonus point win.
“I got outside him [Johnny McNicholl] with that fend and I wasn't thinking about going for the try, I was thinking at least we've got past the gain line, that's what I was thinking at the time,” he said.
“I just wanted to get some metres. I didn't know there were so many of them. I knew there was one, but not so many at the back.”
With Crusaders coming from every side, Leiua made a series of perfect decisions after he glided outside McNicholl.
First he hugged the touchline, backed his pace to skip out of a diving cover tackle, then he swerved in-field to wrong foot fullback Israel Dagg before turning to his left to fend off two more would be tacklers.
It was an exhilarating end to a thrilling match and exactly why All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had been so keen last year to have Leiua declare his hand for New Zealand.
Leiua was too humble to talk himself up then and remained so after his Hurricanes heroics.
“I had to work a little bit harder for that try, but the boys helped me out before that try, so credit to the team,” were his first words when asked by The Dominion Post to describe his try.
“We've been talking during the week about coming out really fired up for this game ... we've been working hard on our defence all week and it paid off tonight.”
That's partly true, but it was two defensive blunders from the Crusaders wings McNicholl and Tuitavake that proved decisive, the latter caught ball watching after halftime to allow Julian Savea a free pass to kick and chase for a crucial try.
Both of the Hurricanes' wings were influential and Leiua is confident he'll see plenty more ball in coming weeks.
“With the Hurricanes every game we want to play, we want to keep the ball in hand. If we keep moving teams around we will find space and score those tries,” he said.
“I really believe in the team and I know we'll work even harder than we have over the past two weeks and the results will take care of themselves.”
The Dominion Post