After the Sharks scored their 2nd try, we had a player in the sin-bin and were trailing 17-0 in the first half I thought I'd better start getting ready for a rant on how it was really the same old Hurricanes again this year. We played like crap in the first half - wet, sloppy, stinking crap.
We were missing tackles left, right and (especially) centre, giving away stupid penalties, dropping the ball and generally getting thrashed as the scoreline would have suggested.
Their first try was an especially soft one. The Sharks were shunting up the near touchline, not making much progress until they went blindside and two Hurricanes players went for the same Sharks player, allowing a clean break by Stefan Terblanche. Cully came across in cover but he had no chance as the ball was passed back inside to a grateful Luke Watson. Converted by Russel 7-0.
Really terrible Canes defence then allowed a bust straight up the middle. Cullen got him about 5m short but he was all alone and rightly did a professional foul to stop the Sharks from recycling the ball for a certain try. Scott Young rightly sent him to the bin and Russel kicked truely for 10-0. Not looking good.
The Sharks kept on making huge inroads into the Hurricanes defence whilst Cullen was off, but often they dropped it allowing the time to elapse with scrums and the Hurricanes keeping the ball for a while but generally going everywhere but forwards. Speaking of forwards, our scrum was getting pressured again and the Sharks won two clean tight-heads on our put-in. Umaga was sensational on defence just like he always is, but soon the Sharks finally got it right.
Another missed tackle saw a Shark going for the line. He was well taken by Nonu but one of those flukish out-of-the-back-of-the-hand-flick-passes stuck and Wylie Human went over. Once again converted and 17-0 and considering turning the TV off in disgust. Little did I know that apart from a drop-goal early in the 2nd half, that would be it for the Sharks and the Hurricanes would run in 5 tries and win the rest of the game 35-3.
Cullen came back on and the backline looked a bit more purposeful. Through good pressure on the clearing Sharks kicker we got a lineout near the tryline. Joe Ward showed great lineout accuracy and the ball was moved around a bit, again not going forwards much but we got a penalty advantage and somehow from Cullen picking and going from a ruck, Kristian Ormsby got the ball and ran over some poor midfield back for a try. 17-7 and time almost up in the 1st half.
Then the defining moment of the game. It's often said the points scored just before halftime and just after halftime are the ones that hurt the most. From the kickoff-after-the-try Haami the halfback puts up a bomb for the Sharks winger near the touchline. Magnificently regathered in the air by a leaping David Holwell, he passes to Fa'atau who runs across field looking for UMAGA who runs a great line on the cut for a deserved try for the captain. So the Hurricanes had played uselessly for 35 minutes but through a bit of magic only trailed by 3 points at the break.
After that floating drop-goal while the ref was playing advantage in the 2nd half the Hurricanes clicked into top gear. Ormsby was yellow-carded for a "high tackle" if you can call it that. Well, it was probably high but NO WAY was it a card. Didn't matter anyway as Cullen soon scored Super 12 try #52 under the posts. It came courtesy of Luke Andrews breaking a couple of very flimsey tackles and getting the go-forward we needed. He went to ground, but from the ground he popped the ball up to Cullen who ran onto the opportunity with superb vision, dare I say, just like the Cullen we knew before his injuries. From 17-0 down the Canes now lead 21-20, and they weren't finished yet.
The next try was an absolute cracker. Holwell, who had an outstanding game put up a high chip kick for Cullen to catch perfectly and in the same movement pass to Fa'atau on the outside who ran around for another try. You'll see that plenty of times on replay, I can assure you. Not only were we leading now, but we had an 8 point buffer and a bonus point.
The buffer became a chasm when from a big bust up by Collins the ball was shifted to Holwell and with awesome vision kicked it ahead into the in-goal. Cullen was able to jog in with no Shark within a bulls roar for his 5th try of the season - John Mitchell take note.
I was very pleased with the way the defence held at the end, despite the game already being won, but the last 20 minutes was just going through the motions as the subs came on. Holwell was very unfairly subbed - he deserved to play the full game and get man of the match for my money. Instead Cullen got man of the match and was awarded a motorbike helmet (?!) for his troubles.
So that's one win out of the three I reckon we'll need from our games with the Sharks, Cats and Chiefs. And temporarily at least, the Hurricanes are in the top 4 for the first time since 2000! That place will be taken come the end of the round by the winner of the Bulls-Tahs game, but a very pleasing performance once again. Except for the first 35 minutes which I've conveniantly forgotten about.