Hurricanes struggle to victory over Stormers

SP Marais of the Stormers is tackled by Wes Goosen of the Hurricanes. Photo: Getty Images
SP Marais of the Stormers is tackled by Wes Goosen of the Hurricanes. Photo: Getty Images

With just one loss in six games this season, the Hurricanes can't have too many complaints with their results, but their performances are still leaving plenty to be desired.

The Stormers' visit to Wellington was meant to be a piece of cake for the Hurricanes, but instead they were given some serious food for thought, needing a second-half charge to claim a tense 34-28 victory.

It was a third win by less than seven points for the Hurricanes, and while they are still sitting pretty in second in the New Zealand conference, most indicators suggested tonight's clash shouldn't have been as nervy as it turned out to be.

The Hurricanes had won 24 of their last 25 games at home, and hadn't been defeated by a South African team at home since 2013, while similarly, the Stormers had dropped eight straight games outside of South Africa, conceding 40 points per game in that period, and hadn't won in New Zealand since 2013.

For a long time, that has been the norm for the Stormers – a force to be reckoned with in South Africa, but exposed when they have to face the cream of the Super Rugby crop away from home. So, despite a hot start, when the Hurricanes struck back through tries to Ben May and Jordie Barrett to take a 15-6 lead, it looked as if usual service had resumed.

The Stormers weren't doing much to disprove the usual tired South African rugby stereotypes, utilising a fearsome rolling maul and the accurate boot of SP Marais, and despite losing first-five eighth Jean-Luc Du Plessis to the sinbin, those attributes quickly became dominant traits as they reeled off 15 straight points.

The Hurricanes forward pack hasn't exactly impressed so far this season, and the Stormers were dominating up front. One lineout drive saw Siya Kolisi crash over, and when Vaea Fifita was yellow carded right on halftime for a shoulder that connected to the head, the visitors turned down an easy penalty to kick for touch.

It proved to be a masterstroke, as Bongi Mbonambi charged over from the resulting lineout drive, to take a 21-15 lead at the break.

The Hurricanes have only had one convincing win this season, having to scrape by the Waratahs and Highlanders, being crushed by the Crusaders, and drawing with the Chiefs. Part of their problem has been the common ailment of New Zealand sides, with their All Blacks stars coming in and out, making it hard to create consistent connections.

This week it was Dane Coles, TJ Perenara and Ngani Laumape sidelined, but eventually their most important All Black of all, Beauden Barrett, stepped up when required.

First his sideline conversion from a Wes Goosen try put the Hurricanes back in front, and while the Stormers continued to be rewarded for their aggression when Jaco Coetzee scored from another lineout, Goosen dusted Marais for the second time to cross again in the right corner.

While Barrett couldn't convert that effort, he put the Hurricanes back in front with 10 minutes to go. Finally, the hosts stole a lineout, and quick ball saw Barrett go himself, burrow over in a tackle, and seal a victory that was much tougher than it should have been.

Hurricanes 34 (W. Goosen 2, B. May, J. Barrett, B. Barrett tries; B. Barrett 3 cons, pen)
Stormers 28 (S. Kolisi, B. Mbonambi, J Coetzee tries; SP. Marais 2 cons, 3 pens)
HT: 15-21

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