Hurricanes smash Cheetahs for 1st Super 15 win of season
Conrad Smith, captain of the Wellington Hurricanes, runs out onto the field for the 100th time, ahead of their Super 15 rugby union match against the Central Cheetahs, at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, on March 15, 2014 - by Marty Melville
In a frantic opening, the Hurricanes secured their four-try bonus point by half-time when they led 29-20 before piling on a further five tries in the second spell.
The long-awaited victory snapped an eight-game losing streak dating back to May last year and lifted the Hurricanes off the bottom of this year's ladder, a position now shared by the Cheetahs and Stormers.
While it was Smith's game to celebrate, it was fellow All Black Beauden Barrett who stole the show, playing a central role in three tries and finishing with a match haul of 23 points.
In a match of high-octane rugby, the Hurricanes cashed in on more than 20 turnovers coughed up by the Cheetahs and possessed more attacking options than a side reliant on the skills of fullback Willie le Roux for momentum.
It was not until le Roux was yellow-carded early in the second half that the Hurricanes were able to build a substantial lead, which ensured the Cheetahs would suffer their fourth loss from five outings.
The Wellington side held a narrow 29-20 lead when le Roux was sent off and within five minutes they had increased their advantage to 43-20 with two snappy converted tries.
The first of them was a solo effort by Barrett and his second try of the match after he had also been instrumental in the Hurricanes' opening try by Dane Coles.
The Hurricanes launched their scoring spree from deep in defence when Barrett clasped a Cheetahs chip kick and kicked the ball to the other end of the field where the South Africans produced what became a constant supply of turnover ball and Coles scored.
The Cheetahs struck back immediately with a try to le Roux, who carved through the Hurricanes defence as the lead see-sawed through the first half.
Johan Goosen added the conversion and two penalties to have the tourists up 13-7 before the Hurricanes hit the front again with Barrett's first converted try.
He put the Hurricanes further ahead 17-13 with a penalty, only for the Cheetahs to regain the ascendancy when le Roux put Philip van der Walt away for a try.
Goosen's conversion gave the Cheetahs a 20-17 lead only for the Hurricanes to close out the half with tries to Chris Smylie and James Marshall.
Barrett and Jeremy Thrush both scored early in the second half while le Roux was sidelined and the fullback's return coincided with the Cheetahs' third try when Francois Uys drove over.
But the pace of the game had by then taken its toll on the South Africans with Matt Proctor, Smith and Alapati Leiua all crossing for the Hurricanes in the closing stages.