Hurricanes keep Super 15 play-offs hopes alive
Victor Vito in Auckland on September 23, 2011. Wellington Hurricanes of New Zealand kept alive hopes of a Super 15 play-offs place with a 39-34 victory over Central Cheetahs of South Africa Friday.
The visitors bagged a maximum five points after collecting a bonus point for scoring four tries at chilly Free State Stadium in the central city of Bloemfontein and climbed three rungs of the overall championship standings to eighth spot.
It was a particularly satisfying result for the men from Wellington as they fared badly against South African opposition in the past two weekends -- losing at home to Western Stormers and away to Northern Bulls.
Fly-half Beauden Barrett, whose head was bandaged to protect an injury against the Bulls, contributed 24 points from a try, two conversions and five penalties and his shrewd field kicking often had the home team retreating.
Giant left wing Julian Savea, scrum-half TJ Perenara and captain and No 8 Victor Vito were the other try scorers for the Hurricanes, one of two New Zealand sides never to have won the southern hemisphere championship.
Cheetahs, who rose one place to sixth thanks to a losing bonus point, sorely missed injured flank Pieter 'Lappies' Labuschagne, looked rusty after a bye last weekend and too often tried to run the ball from very deep positions.
A lot of the running by the South Africans was also too lateral and when they did adopt a more direct approach it paid handsome dividends with loosehead prop Coenie 0osthuizen bulldozing over for two tries.
"We adopted a more physical approach than last weekend and it paid off. South African rugby players are big boys and you have to match them to have any chance of success," said Vito.
Cheetahs hooker and skipper Adriaan Strauss said: "We were not good in the second half and got caught out by kicks behind us. There was also too much slow ball from the breakdowns."
Rival fly-halves Barrett and Burton Francis kicked four penalties each to leave the sides level at 12-12 going into the break, but 11 minutes into the second half the try fest began.
Hurricanes scored four and Cheetahs one within 19 minutes as the game took a decisive turn in favour of the visitors, who led 39-19 before the second Oosthuizen try and another from centre Robert Ebersohn closed the gap.
Elgar Watts, who replaced off-form Francis early in the second half, kicked two conversions and the late penalty that ensured Cheetahs got something from the game.
It was the first home defeat for the Bloemfontein outfit since losing to compatriots Coastal Sharks in the opening round last February, but they can still dream of a first play-offs appearance with three home games to come.