Hurricanes tame the Bulls in tight contest
Two in a row for the first time this year, but the Hurricanes made hard work of their 25-20 frantic struggle to put away the Bulls in Napier tonight.
Consistency has been a major issue for the Hurricanes this year. Every time they seemed to turn the corner they had crumbled the following week.
In-front of 9000 at McLean Park, they brought the required intensity and banked a crucial victory that improved their season to three wins and four losses - a far cry from the 0-3 start to the year.
But no-one will be fooled into thinking the Canes have the right recipe just yet, having been out scored two-tries-to-one, though at least they are still in the fight.
On the way to the match, the Hurricanes' bus broke down and the Bulls' bus had to double back and pick them up.
Maybe the Canes felt a duty to repay the favour. It sure seemed that way as they continually invited the visitors back into a match they once had complete control over.
From the outset the Hurricanes attempted to play at a frenetic pace, forcing the Bulls to make 42 tackles in the opening eight minutes alone.
Led up-front by prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen, lock James Broadhurst and flanker Faifili Levave, the link play from the Canes forwards split the South Africans up the middle, just as the Chiefs had in Pretoria last week.
Beauden Barrett broke the contest open with a perfectly-placed cross-field kick for the opening try. Cory Jane, back after two weeks on the outer, flicked the ball inside to Andre Taylor, the fullback who has made such a dramatic difference to the Canes mentality on attack.
Clearly buoyed by their win over the Crusaders last week, the hustle from the home side epitomised their shift in attitude. They chased kicks with vigour, contested every scrap of possession and laid on some huge hits on defence. Jack Lam was his usual influential self and Canes scrum even had surprising dominance.
Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann and All Blacks prop Ben Franks were causalities of brutal collisions at the breakdown during the firsthalf.
Despite being totally outplayed, the visitors stuck a crucial blow just before the break with fullback Jurgen Visser latching on to an up-and-under to close the gap to 13-16 at halftime.
Mark Hammett's men then went off the boil with ball security and ill-discipline proving problematic. They became disjoined, lacking patience and pushing passes which allowed the tiring Bulls to breathe and revert back to their favoured slow grind.
It took 25 minutes for Barrett to secure the first points of the secondhalf and the Bulls weren't done yet.
With a superb left-foot step, replacement Handre Pollard turned the game on its head. After the Bulls rolling maul was defused, Pollard went straight through Lam and Levave - no mean feat - to put his side in the lead for the first time with just over 10 minutes to play.
But Barrett, who kicked 18 points, nailed a pressure penalty in the 74th minute to save his side and keep spirits alive.
It proved to be just enough.
Hurricanes 25 (Andre Taylor try, Beauden Barrett 6 pen, con) Bulls 20 (Jurgen Visser, Handre Pollard try, Jacques Louis-Potgieter 3 pen, Pollard con). HT: 16-13