Wellington’s Hurricanes booked a home Super Rugby Semi-final by beating South Africa’s Sharks 41-0 at Westpac Stadium.
The victory may have come at a considerable cost though as Hurricanes captain Dane Coles left the field in considerable pain holding his ribs and will be in doubt for the rest of the tournament – possibly also for the Rugby Championship.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said that Coles had been taken to hospital as it looked like either cartilage or a rib problem.
The victory is the Hurricanes sixth in a row as they last lost a match at the start of May – ironically to the Sharks in Durban.
The Hurricanes finished on top of the standings at the end of the regular season so they will be the Highest seeded team in the Super Rugby Semi-finals next weekend and will play the lowest seeded team next week at home in Wellington.
The Hurricanes will have to wait to find out who they will be playing but as the 8th placed Sharks have been eliminated the Canes will be playing a New Zealand team – one of the Chiefs, Crusaders or Highlanders.
Conditions in the match were poor as the wind and rain hammered the players throughout the contest which impacted heavily on handling and territorial kicks
The Hurricanes outscored the Sharks by six tries to none in the match and it is the first time that the Hurricanes have kept a team scoreless in Super Rugby. The Sharks missed 21 tackles out of 72.
The Hurricanes were the only New Zealand team to draw a home tie in the play-offs and after their win as well as that of the Highlanders, a Kiwi clean sweep is on the cards this weekend.
Foul weather greeted the teams at the start when they ran out to swirling winds and a soggy surface which made the match a test to see who would handle the conditions better.
The Sharks suffered the most with conditions in the early stages as their flyhalf Garth April missed two early kicks at goal.
In stark contrast, his opposite number Beauden Barrett led the Hurricanes’ challenge wonderfully with a superb all round display and almost single-handedly laid the platform for his side’s eventual 13-0 halftime lead.
The Sharks looked competitive initially but they lost the ball in tackles and missed a few first-time tackles which saw then come away empty-handed from a few promising visits into the Hurricanes’ 22m area.
After April’s lapses from the kicking tee, Barrett raised the flags with a 12th-minute penalty to bring up his 900-pont haul in Super Rugby.
Five minutes later Barrett unleashed a crosskick deep into the 22m area where Sharks failed to field and was brilliantly collected by Jasson Woodward. After a few desperate tackles which managed to hold up the Hurricanes on the tryline, loosehead prop Loni Uhila barged over for an unconverted try.
Three minutes later, Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara made a blindside snipe from the back of the scrum and the Sharks defence was caught napping.
A scoring pass to fullback James Marshall who was ranging out wide on the touchlines was a touch too much for a Sharks and the Hurricanes were in for their second five-pointer, which also went unconverted.
April had another chance to open his side’s scoring account but was wide again four minutes ahead of halftime.
The Sharks had a lucky let-off in the closing minute of the first half when Barrett came close to scoring after JP Pietersen’s kick was charged down five metres out.
When second-half play resumed, Perenara stage-managed the opening 10 minutes to the extent that the match was settled as a contest as the Hurricanes ran up a 27-0 lead.
He had a hand in both tries, both of which were converted by Barrett. Leftwing Jason Woodward pounced for a 46th minute try and three minutes later the Westpac crowd erupted when lock Vaea Fifita dotted down for the Hurricanes’ fourth try.
Just ahead of the hour mark, Perenara capped his matchwinning performance with a try and Barrett goaled the conversion for a runaway 34-0 lead.
There was further embarrassment for the South Africans when Hurricanes crashed over for a sixth try right at the death when flanker Brad Shields scored. Leftwing Jason Woodward converted.
The result also underlines the New Zealand team’s dominance in Super Rugby and they have scored 8 tries in the first two quarter finals while the Australian and South African side have failed to cross the tryline.
Final Score Hurricanes 41 (13) Sharks 0 (0)
Tries – L.Uhila, J,Marshall ,J.Woodward, V.Fifita, TJ.Perenara
Pen – B.Barrett
Con – B.Barrett 3, J.Woodward
Attendance : 17,895
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1:Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 2:Paul Williams
TMO : Glenn Newman
15 James Marshall , 14 Cory Jane , 13 Matt Proctor , 12 Willis Halaholo , 11 Jason Woodward , 10 Beauden Barrett , 9 TJ Perenara (vc) , 8 Victor Vito , 7 Ardie Savea , 6 Brad Shields , 5 Michael Fatialofa , 4 Vaea Fifita , 3 Ben May , 2 Dane Coles (c) , 1 Loni Uhila
Replacements: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Mike Kainga, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson Park, Vince Aso, Julian Savea.
15. Willie le Roux ,14. JP Pietersen , 13. Paul Jordaan , 12. Andre Esterhuizen, , 11. Lwazi Mvovo , 10. Garth April , 9. Michael Claassens, , 8. Philip van der Walt, , 7. Jean-Luc du Preez , , 6. Keegan Daniel , 5. Stephan Lewies , 4. Etienne Oosthuizen , 3. Coenie Oosthuizen , 2. Franco Marais , 1. Tendai Mtawarira (Captain)
Replacements:16. Chiliboy Ralepelle,17. Dale Chadwick , 18. Thomas du Toit ,19. Hyron Andrews,20. Tera Mtembu ,21. Stefan Ungerer ,22. Curwin Bosch ,23. Odwa Ndungane