February 21, 2015
All aboard the 'Cane train!
Julian Savea's powerful try handed the Hurricanes another victory in South Africa with a 17-13 win over the Bulls at Loftus on Friday.
It was by no means a match for the imagination as the home side made one unforced error after the other, leaving the Hurricanes in a position where they were very rarely placed under pressure for a sustained period of time.
One such occasion came when there was four minutes remaining in the match.
The Bulls had worked their way into the Hurricanes’ red zone and, through the good vision of veteran lock Victor Matfield, spread the ball wide to create a match winning opportunity.
What looked like the winner by replacement Grant Hattingh was denied after the player had his one hand in touch when he went over the line – a schoolboy error considering the space he had to finish.
The Hurricanes were let off the hook more than once in the match, although credit has to go to Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu who were always going to make life difficult for the more inexperienced backline they were up against.
Ben Franks and company also made life extremely difficult for the men from Pretoria and one of the most significant differences between the sides was the Hurricanes’ ability to effectively clear players out who tried to interfere at the breakdown.
The Bulls enjoyed good early momentum, but the unforced errors meant that they could not convert the early advantage into points.
Instead their somewhat lethargic defence was exposed by the crisp passing and impeccable running lines the visitors would dish-up all night.
At scrum-time at wasn’t as bad as the previous week, but the Bulls weren’t anywhere near as effective from set-phase as they are known to be. Even their traditionally strong lineouts were in shambles while the visitors excelled in that part of the game
Savea's late score ultimately proved to be the difference as the Hurricanes won their second match in South Africa within a week, they first time they've won twice in the country in a season since 2006, when they reached the final.
As soon as the Hurricanes settled into their passing game, with TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett using all their big ball carriers to good effect, the visitors looked like a really potent attacking force.
Barrett scored two and missed one penalty within a few minutes after multi-phase attacks that really tested the Bulls defence and threw up some warning signs for their supporters.
Cory Jane's clever chip into the corner put the Bulls under yet more pressure, but a penalty for obstruction ended the Hurricanes immediate prospects of any more points.
One promising area for the Bulls however was their rolling maul. Driving the Hurricanes back by nearly 40 metres, the home side however couldn't turn it into points.
Pollard was able to get them on the board with a penalty not long after, his 50-metre strike having plenty of distance behind it.
What an honour to beat the bulls at Loftus! pic.twitter.com/3AwzZNLBs1— Reggie Goodes (@ReggieGoodes) February 20, 2015
A second scorching break from the young full-back Jesse Kriel then generated the game's first try. Kriel bust through the tackle of Ben Franks and made a huge gain, with Pollard then finishing off the attack when he hit Piet van Zyl's pass at speed to go over by the posts.
Handling errors stopped the Hurricanes from getting their attack back into gear, but a penalty against Trevor Nyakane presented the visitors with one final chance before half-time - a second scrum near the Bulls line giving them a chance to kick for goal which Barrett converted to make the score 10-9 at the break.
Pollard clattered the post with a 58-metre strike to prevent his side extending their advantage after half-time, but the Hurricanes instantly responded. Jason Woodward's strong run after collecting the ricocheted ball set them on the attack, ending in an opportunity for Barrett to add his fourth penalty off the tee.
A successful reply from Pollard secured the lead for the Bulls at 13-12 with the visitors' execution continuing to let them down as the Bulls slowly gained control of the territory and possession.
The Bulls were happy to let the Hurricanes spread the ball around as they stood off at the ruck, waiting for the moment to strike with their quick defence.
An overthrown lineout however from Callie Visagie was a costly error, setting up the Hurricanes five metres from the Bulls line.
Francois Hougaard had rushed up too early in his attempt to prevent Savea from beating him one-on-one, but from the resulting offside penalty the clinical All Blacks winger couldn't be stopped. Breaking through the attempted tackles of three Bulls defenders, he put his side back in front at 13-17.
Hattingh's chance to win it all came and went and the Hurricanes ticked down the clock to make a little bit of history, starting their season with two wins on the road as the Bulls suffered their second consecutive home defeat.