The Hurricanes staved off a gutsy fightback from the Bulls to claim a 35-28 victory in Saturday’s quarter-final in Wellington.
Last weekend, the Bulls claimed an impressive win over the Lions to finish as the highest-placed South African side in the pool stages. Unfortunately, a trip to Wellington – that was also blighted by a travel delay – ultimately proved to be a bridge too far.
That’s not to say the Bulls didn’t give a fantastic account of themselves in Wellington. Despite falling 17 points behind at one stage in the first half, they displayed plenty of fighting spirit to make a real contest of proceedings, in fact reducing the deficit to a measly four points.
However, the Hurricanes ultimately managed to do just enough to claim a result that sees them progress to the semi-finals, while denying the Bulls what would have been a historic result.
Although the Bulls did score the opening try in this clash when Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant combined to great effect, the Hurricanes then turned on the style.
Over the next half an hour, the Canes responded with three top-quality tries, while exposing some soft moments on defence from the Bulls, with the hosts racing into a 24-7 lead.
As the statistics revealed, the Hurricanes held ascendancy as they made 230m to 155 and beat 10 defenders to four in the opening stanza, but importantly the Bulls did strike back before the break when Cornal Hendricks showed good strength to finish off an important try.
At the start of the second half, Rayasi went from hero to zero as he scored a scintillating second try, but it was then his deliberate knock-down that gifted the Bulls a penalty try and sent him to the sin bin.
In his absence, Hendricks brilliantly finished off his brace of tries, and suddenly it was just a four-point ball game after yet another superb conversion from Handré Pollard heading into the final quarter.
With the pressure building on the Canes, Jordie Barrett slotted an important penalty to make it 35-28, though, and from there the hosts managed to hold out for a win despite the Bulls launching one late surge.
Hurricanes – Tries: TJ Perenara, Ben Lam, Salesi Rayasi (2). Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3). Penalties: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett.
Bulls – Tries: Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks (2), penalty try. Conversions: Handré Pollard (3).
Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Ben May/Alex Fidow, 19 Kane Le’aupepel, 20 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 21Richard Judd/Finlay Christie, 22 James Marshall, 23 Salesi Rayasi.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Match Officials and details
Date : Sat 22 June
Venue : Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1:O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 2:Brendon Pickerill
TMO :Glenn Newman