Ngani Laumape’s 85th-minute try gave the Hurricanes a last-gasp 38-37 victory over the Sharks at McLean Park, Napier.
It was a game the Sharks dominated, but it was the Hurricanes who finished the stronger, breaking the South African’s hearts – and spirit – with Laumape’s late winner.
The Sharks withstood a second-half barrage from the Hurricanes, allowing only penalties from Ihaia West before Laumape crashed over for his second try of the game.
Tyler Paul had scored late in the game, giving the Sharks a nine-point lead, but it was not enough to stop the thrilling denouement.
The Hurricanes went 19 phases before setting up another eight, as the laid siege to the South African’s goal-line.
The intensity told, as the 14-man Sharks wilted under the pressure while giving up the ghost.
Lukhanyo Am grabbed a brace and Loius Schreuder crossed the whitewash as the Sharks, who dominated this Super Rugby clash, took a 19-27 half-time lead.
The Wellington side scored three tries of their own in the first 40 minutes.
Jordie Barrett, Vince Aso and match-winner Laumape kept the Hurricanes in the hunt, as did the boot of West, who kicked the game-winning conversion.
Hurricanes out the gates early.
The Wellington side, playing in Hawke’s Bay, raced to a 12-3 lead.
Jordie Barrett finished off a slick backline move before Laumape crossed in the 16th-minute after some good offloading.
From the lineout on the Sharks’ 22, TJ Perenara played a wonderful switch with Laumape before passing to West.
The standoff drew his man, played Barrett, who sped past Am.
The next score was even better. Perenara was involved throughout, starting with a wonderful one-two with Barrett on the touchline.
The Hurricanes recycled quickly and two phases later, West slipped a wonderful backdoor offload to Laumape for the second.
The Sharks fought back, having the better of the rest of the half as they overturned the 10-point deficit.
They hit back with two tries in four minutes through Am and Schreuder
The Durbaintes went through some pick and drives on the Canes’ line before spreading the ball to Am.
The centre’s low gravity helped him barge over the whitewash from close range.
Schreuder darted over after a solid scrum on the Hurricanes’ five-metre line.
The halfback slipped Sam Henwood’s desperate tackle and beat Perenara with his pace to score near the sticks.
Jordie Barrett inspiration.
Mistakes by the visitors saw Aso grab the Hurricanes’ third try of the evening after a mistake by Lwazi Mvovo.
Camped inside their own 22, instead of clearing, Barrett put in a deft chip-kick for his backs to chase.
A routine take by Mvovo turned into a calamity.
The winger could not hold onto the ball, consequently giving it up to Aso, who shrugged off Sibusiso Nkosi and raced 75 metres to score under the posts.
With half-time approaching, the Sharks came up with some magic of their own.
Andre Esterhuizen’s sublime offload to Curwin Bosch broke open the defence.
Bosch played the supporting Lubabalo Mtembu, who in turn played a one-two with Mvovo on the touchline before ‘Beast’ Mtawarira’s carried forward.
The ‘Beast’ was tackled short, but some quick recycling at the breakdown saw Am in for his brace.
The second-half was tight and tense. Some ill-discipline by the tourists inside their own half proved costly – as it would at the death.
West kicked two early penalties, clawing back the deficit to two points.
Robert du Preez extended the Sharks’ lead to 25-30 with 25 minutes remaining.
The visitors had chances to put the game away but they butchered an attacking five-metre scrum with some sloppy work by Mtembu at the back of the set-piece.
Mvovo’s midfield break was bungled after some poor handling.
Ruan Botha stole a Hurricanes’ attacking lineout as the Sharks held firm.
The Hurricanes kept chipping away.
West kicked another penalty to keep his side two points back.
Bosch collected West’s clearance and ran it back, beating three defenders before being stopped short.
A few pick-and-goes, some quick ball and Paul was over for the try.
It’s never over ’til it’s over.
The clock was ticking down; the home team powered forward, winning a series of penalties after Jean Luc du Preez was penalised.
Brad Shields’ game management was superb.
The captain took the points, knowing his team had one last shot at winning the game if they could convert a try.
West’s fourth, set up the thrilling finish.
Less than 60 seconds remained, the Hurricanes had possession inside their 22 and began to chip away at the tiring tourists’ legs.
Sharks are blown away by storming attack.
They crawled to the halfway line through 19 phases of pick-and-drives, looking for a little gap – some hope.
It duly came. The Sharks started giving away silly penalties.
West kicked to the 22 and the Hurricanes went to their maul. The South African’s had been supreme, all evening, but now they were running on empty.
On 82 minutes, Franco Marais was yellow carded for cynical play in the red zone.
Another eight phases and a couple of penalty advantages finally told.
The intensity of the Hurricanes’ sustained attack, and being down a man, broke the vertebrates’ backbone.
The Sharks, sucking air, were sucked into the rucks close to the posts.
Shields picked up and charged forward, but was pushed back. Reed Prinsep was thwarted.
The ball was sent wide by West. The first five’s cut-out pass sent Laumape in for the try.
West made no mistake with the conversion.
Hurricanes versus Sharks video highlights.
Final score: Hurricanes 38 (19) Sharks 37 (27)
Tries – J. Barrett, Laumape (2), Aso
Pen – West (4)
Con – West (3)
Tries – Am (2), Schreuder, Paul
Pen – R. du Preez (3)
Con – R. du Preez (4)
Cards – Marais (Yellow, 82′)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Aaron Paterson
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Sam Henwood, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Ben May, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Wes Goosen.
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (captain), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Tyler Paul, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Jacobus van Wyk.