July 30, 2016
SF1: Hurricanes 25 Chiefs 9
The Hurricanes booked a home Super Rugby final on Saturday as they brushed aside a mis-firing Chiefs side 25-9 in Wellington.
An impressive defensive effort that frustrated the Chiefs into numerous mistakes ultimately created the victory for the 'Canes, who feasted on those errors in a perfect example of shutting out your opposition in knockout rugby.
Tries from Willis Halaholo, Beauden Barrett and Victor Vito were the difference and while two of those came against the run of play, few would argue that last year's losing finalists didn't deserve to progress to next week's final.
The Chiefs now bow out after a strong campaign but this was an uncharacteristic showing that they'll look back on with a lot of frustration.
The Hurricanes, as many had expected, went into the game without captain and hooker Dane Coles, who was officially ruled out before kick-off. But his replacement Ricky Riccitelli gave a decent account of himself in a first period the 'Canes might have felt fortunate to lead by nine.
The Chiefs applied so much pressure in the red zone but several calls to snub three points eventually backfired as they left with nothing.
If the visitors had forgotten the class of the Hurricanes in broken play then it took just six minutes for a refresher course as from a Tawera Kerr-Barlow spillage, Barrett countered superbly via a chip and regather before he sprinted up to the 22 and offloaded to Halaholo for a try.
Barrett's conversion rocked the upright and the Chiefs hit back soon after when Riccitelli was penalised for side entry. Damian McKenzie, after missing his first shot early in the contest, made no mistake from in front and it was 5-3 in an even start to a physical semi-final.
The Chiefs, and McKenzie in particular, then began to enjoy the majority of possession and territory but as mentioned, turning down kickable points eventually came back to haunt them as the 'Canes survived. In fact Ardie Savea sparked a breakout that almost led to a try.
Rubbing salt into Chiefs' wounds was the sight of Barrett landing a penalty goal after an offside that make it 8-3 on 33 minutes and when the fly-half intercepted Sam Cane's stray pass off a line-out move two minutes later, suddenly the 'Canes had raced into a 15-3 lead.
McKenzie did manage to cut the lead to nine with a penalty of his own a minute before the break, but the Chiefs were surely reeling.
Their mood did not improve on 48 minutes when Vito found space on the blindside of an attacking scrum five metres out for what appeared to be a key try in the context of the game. With Barrett's conversion the score was now 22-6 before McKenzie landed a penalty.
Both coaches had already begun to send on their bench at that point, but it was still the Hurricanes in control thanks to another Barrett three points. However, hope did arrive for the Chiefs via the sight of wing Cory Jane going to the sin-bin for a slap down on 63 minutes.
Their frustration in finding the missing piece of the jigsaw in terms of a try continued to thwart their game though, with chances aplenty going begging until the final siren, with the Hurricanes celebrating to hugely deserved victory that sees the team make successive finals.
Tries: Halaholo, Barrett, Vito
Con: Barrett 2
Pen: Barrett 2
Yellow card: Jane (63 min – deliberate slap down)
Pen: McKenzie 3
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Loni Uhila
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Julian Savea
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sam McNicol, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Lachlan Boshier, 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Toni Pulu, 23 Shaun Stevenson
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson, Paul Williams
TMO: Ben Skeen