Within 10 seconds of kick-off, centre Umaga suffered concussion after jumping for the high ball. Despite this, and the fact that he briefly played on the Warratahs side after the bump, he didn’t go off until half time. However this was the only real drama in a dreary first half, in which the sole try scored was that by Warratah Luke Inman in the 20th minute of the match. This was largely due to the ineptitude of both teams, conceding a high number of turnovers and unforced errors. Neither had the ball long enough to score, including Hurricane winger Darryl Lilley, who had the ball inadvertently knocked out of his hands as he stretched over the line to touch down.
It appeared that both teams were struggling to get back into good habits after the previous week’s bye. But it was the Hurricanes who went up a needed gear in the second half. After an explosive start, David ‘Holy’ Holwell put the Hurricanes in the lead 12-10 with a penalty kick. Within minutes, Darryl Lilley compensated for his earlier fumbling by scoring a try in the corner for the home team and in front of his native New Plymouthians.
It was very much the Hurricane’s half. After conceding two penalty goals and, when Matt Burke failed to kick the required 10 metres for the third time, the Warratahs were looking effectively dead and buried. With five minutes to go in the match, the Hurricanes had put together 25 unanswered points, including a second try by Lilley and one five-pointer by the reliable Jason O‘Halloran. However the Hurricanes still needed a four-try bonus point. The first attempt ended with referee Andre Watson calling a forward pass. But in the dying seconds of the match, a brilliant scythe-like run and over-the-shoulder pass to Cullen by mid-fielder Greg Thompson meant that the men in yellow could breathe a little easier for a few days.
The Super 12 semi-finalists are still too close to call. Frankly, the whole thing is doing my head in and I may need a ‘bye’ myself soon. Bye then.