VIDEO: Hurricanes survive Bulls' late surge
MATCH REPORT: The Hurricanes book their spot in the semifinals with a hard-fought 35-28 win over the Bulls on Saturday in Wellington.
There were four tries apiece and the Hurricanes needed two penalties by Jordie Barrett to keep their noses in front and make the final four.
It continued the dominance of the home side in the playoffs after the Crusaders beat the Highlanders and the Jaguares downed the Chiefs in the first two matches.
Replacement back Salesi Rayasi was the hero-turned-villain for the Hurricanes with two tries as they shot out to a 29-14 lead before being sent to the sin-bin which sparked a late Bulls revival.
“It was play-offs footy. The first half was good and then they came back in the second half and it went down to the wire,” a relieved ‘Canes captain Dane Coles said.
“There were a couple of big moments in that second half, obviously the sin-binning. We dropped the ball and they scored points. The little mistakes can have a massive effect.”
Bulls captain Handre Pollard, said an indifferent first half cost his side.
“A couple of bounces didn’t go our way and we let in a couple of soft tries which cost us in the first half. But the fightback was unreal,” he said.
The under-sized Hurricanes pack – conceding 25 kilograms (55 pounds) to the burly Bulls and dwarfed in the lineouts by the 2.01 metre Jason Jenkins and his 1.97m partner RG Snyman – held their own as they steadily built a lead in the first half.
TJ Perenara, Ben Lam and Rayasi scored tries, all converted by Beauden Barrett who also landed a penalty as the ‘Canes turned 24-14 ahead with the Bulls points coming from tries to Warrick Gelant and Cornel Hendricks, both converted by Pollard.
But after Rayasi scored his second try just after the resumption, the Bulls pack used their superior size to set up camp on the Hurricanes line.
They won a penalty try from a deliberate knockdown by Rayasi, which saw the ‘Canes outside back sent to the sin-bin.
After Jordie Barrett kicked his first penalty, the Pretoria-based Bulls – appearing in the knockout stages for the first time since 2013 – closed within four points when Hendricks crashed over for his second try.
Once Jordie Barrett kicked his second penalty, to create a seven-point margin, the giant Snyman stole a Hurricane’s lineout after the final hooter sounded.
But the Bulls bid for a converted try to force the match into overtime ended when Hendricks knocked the ball on a few metres short of the line.
Man of the match: Salesi Rayasi, Dane Coles and Ardie Savea all produced noteworthy performers for the Hurricanes, while Warrick Gelant, Handre Pollard and Cornel Hendricks were the standout performers for the Bulls. However our nod goes to Hurricanes TJ Perenara. The scrumhalf defence and attack was impressive, but it was his leadership that proved to be vital for the side.
Tries: Perenare, Lam, Rayasi 2
Cons: B. Barrett 3
Pens: B.Barrett, J. Barrett 2
Tries: Gelant, Hendricks 2, Penalty try
Cons: Pollard 3
Yellow card: Salesi Rayasi (Hurricanes, 52 – Deliberate knock-on)
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas 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 (captain), 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Ben May, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 21 Richard Judd, 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 (captain), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 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.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)