While Auckland v Canterbury games used to be New Zealand rugby’s premier clash, over recent years it’s Wellington-based sides which have been the most competitive against the champion Red and Blacks, and Saturday night’s match in Christchurch wrote another chapter in the two cities’ recent sporting history.
While it would be easy for Cantabrians to blame a shocking refereeing decision which awarded the visitors their opening try without checking an obvious obstruction with the TMO, in reality it was a match that got away from the Crusaders.
They dominated scrums, capitalized on a Hurricanes lineout which was woefully inaccurate, and looked, for the majority of the game, to have the outcome under control.
But the ‘Canes, showing a new found resilience under the tutelage of Mark Hammett, hung in there, and when the chance came, in the form of a straight-forward penalty in front of the sticks, young All Black Beauden Barrett seized the moment and led the Hurricanes to a crucial 23-22 win.
A loss for the Hurricanes would have ended their season – as it stands now both sides are still in contention, and the remaining two rounds promise to be nail-biters in the New Zealand conference.