Hurricanes 16-9 Crusaders
Blade Thomson slices and dices Crusaders
June 28, 2014
Julian Savea celebrates the Hurricanes' victory
© Getty Images
The Hurricanes have boosted their hopes of playing finals football for the first time since 2009 by defeating the Crusaders in an arm-wrestle at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Two fine tries from second-row Blade Thomson - one in each half - proved decisive after the Canes had lost influential players Victor Vito and Alapati Leiua to leg injuries inside eight minutes, the second-rower collecting a grubber kick from wing Cory Jane and racing 50 metres to touch down seven minutes from full-time to complete his double and ice the verdict.
Beauden Barrett, who had an excellent game with some typical elusive running, failed to land the sideline conversion that would have opened the margin beyond seven points, and the resulting bonus point for the Crusaders ensured the seven-time champions maintained top spot in the New Zealand conference, ahead of the Highlanders on countback.
The match was otherwise notable for the return to Super Rugby of Crusaders and All Blacks stars Kieran Read, after his long-standing concussion-related issues, and Dan Carter, after his six-month sabbatical. Carter entered the action after Colin Slade left the pitch to undertake a concussion test that the fly-half then failed.
Victory was particularly important for the Hurricanes, who have only one more game to play in the regular season to improve their position on the ladder, and they won despite struggling in the set-piece. They had the better of the opening spell, and Thomson's first try, after Julian Savea had sparked a breakaway with a kick-and-chase, contributed to the 11-3 lead at the break. The Hurricanes won the ball back at the ruck after Savea had collected Slade, and Barrett's big cut-out pass then found Thomson out wide.
Carter attempted a long-range drop goal to put his side in front, with 11 minutes to play, but the kick went wide. The Crusaders then had field position to manufacture a late twist in a nail-biting finish, but the home side's defence held up.
Hurricanes 16-9 Crusaders (Australia only)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with AAP