14-man Hurricanes hold off Chiefs for first win

Damien Mackenzie is wrapped up the Hurricanes defence in Hamilton. Photo: Getty Images
Damien Mackenzie is wrapped up the Hurricanes defence in Hamilton. Photo: Getty Images
The Hurricanes dominated the dance of the desperate to leave 15,031 Hamiltonians in a miserable mood.

The Chiefs and Hurricanes arrived at Waikato Stadium yet to get off the mark since lockdown as hopes of contesting the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa fast slipped away.

Midway through the second half the Hurricanes were well in control, leading by 22 points after running in three tries and repeatedly repelling the Chiefs throughout the contest with superb scrambling defence.

Two second-half yellow cards to lock Scott Scrafton changed the complexion of the match, forcing the Hurricanes to play the final 16 minutes one man short which allowed the Chiefs to mount a belated fightback.

Even then, though, the Chiefs were well beaten. Despite their one man advantage and largely setting up camp in Hurricanes 22 in the final quarter the Chiefs butchered several try-scoring chances through basic errors and a lack of game management.

Late tries to Lachlan Boshier and a penalty try when Scrafton tackled Damian McKenzie in an offside position could not save them on this occasion and, in truth, a Chiefs victory would have been an injustice given the Hurricanes' overall dominance.

Warren Gatland's Chiefs will now sink into next week's bye with confidence at a low ebb, having lost four matches in succession. No one predicted they would go backwards in at such a rate of knots.

Two weeks to stew on their lack of form will only raise more questions about Gatland's underwhelming tenure to date.

Already in the midst of a locking crisis, there was further bad news for the Chiefs when 20-year-old second-rower Naitoa Ah Kuoi was knocked out in a nasty head clash with Hurricanes flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi. Ah Kuoi lay prone on the deck for five minutes while the match was halted in the first half but, in a positive sign of his wellbeing, he gave a shaka signal as he was stretched from the field.

The Chiefs missed Anton Lienert-Brown's steady midfield presence but even their experienced heads, the likes of McKenzie, Brad Weber and Aaron Cruden, appear well short of their best.

From the outside it often seems as though the Chiefs are forcing passes and lacking patience.
Credit must be paid to the Hurricanes, who had lost all three games coming into this match.

Jordie Barrett's return from a shoulder injury helped settle their backline and decision-making - his 58-metre penalty strike to give the Hurricanes a 20-3 halftime lead was another bonus, too.

Hurricanes openside Kirifi was a constant menace at the breakdown and Dane Coles, when he wasn't firing up at referee Ben O'Keeffe for sending Scrafton from the field, made influential breaks and offloads.

After a quiet return from a knee injury Ardie Savea started to warm into his work, too.

The match itself was reflective of two teams struggling for form; two sides who seem a notch or two below the Crusaders and Blues.

But the Hurricanes will return to Wellington in a much better place. This is their fifth straight win over the Chiefs and, more importantly, they can now push on in the New Zealand derby competition with renewed belief.

Hurricanes 25 (Kobus van Wyk 2, Du'Plessis Kirifi tries; Jordie Barrett 2 cons, 2 pens)
Chiefs 18 (Lachlan Boshier try, penalty try; Damian McKenzie 2 pens)
Halftime: 20-3

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