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Hurricanes beat the Cats in Bloemfontein
Hurricanes beat the Cats in Bloemfontein
(10 points from the African tour!)
22 Mar 2003

It wasn't a convincing win, but it was good enough to get 5 points and at the end of the day that's all that really matters. Two wins out of the three we'll need from our games vs the Sharks, Cats and Chiefs and we're looking not too bad in Hurricane land.

It was a 3 am kickoff so I can't remember much of the first 10 minutes or so. Pretorious got a penalty, but that was quickly responded to with a try to Umaga. From the kickoff after the penalty the Cats kicked it out and from that lineout the Hurricanes moved it wide with some nice interplay then from the ruck it was given to Umaga who put on an awesome step to beat the fullback then used brute strength to shrug off a tackle for the try. Converted by Holwell, 7-3.

At this point I began to wake up and found the Hurricanes defending a lot. Pretorious who had an awesome game was breaking the line just about every time he got the ball and only desperate defence by the Hurricanes backs in cover was scragging him down. Only a matter of time before they make us pay, I thought.

Then all of a sudden there's a turnover and Jerry Collins goes straight through the defence on a clean break! The big unit sprinted downfield straight at the Cats fullback before veering to the side, giving a pass to the support - (incidentally, I think the fullback was quite pleased that he didn't have to tackle Jerry Collins in full flight!) - from there a ruck was formed and the ball was spread to Holwell on the wing. What happened next was quite sensational. The usually solid and conservative David Holwell did one of those kicks you might expect from Carlos Spencer or Andrew Johns which Umaga gratefully received for a very easy try on the inside. 14-3 and looking brilliant.

The Cats continued to push hard though. I think at this stage they had something like 70% territory and soon enough Pretorious had a penalty attempt as a reward. Fortunately that missed, but soon afterwards there was a terrible breakdown in communication between Brent Ward and Cully. A chip kick from the Cats that either of them could easily have caught was allowed to bounce, both players expecting the other to grab it. Cullen was probably at fault since Ward would have had to turn around if he'd caught it -but at any rate the Cats regathered the pill and after Bobo veered infield it was passed on the shortside again for Pretorious to dive in the corner. Conversion missed, 14-8.

With the first half drawing to a close I was hoping the Hurricanes might be able to grab some of those vital points before halftime, but an abysmal lapse in concentration meant that it was the Cats who finished the first half the stronger. From a penalty about 22m out from the Hurricanes goaline everybody in the Hurricanes jogged back the 10 metres and moped around expecting either a lineout to be set up or a shot at goal to be taken. Instead Skinstad tapped the ball and then kicked ahead into the in-goal for a flying Pretorious to fall upon for his second try. Converted from the sideline for 15-14 to the Cats.

Next came a defining moment in the match. Cullen, running the ball up from a kick was brutally spear-tackled by the Cats hooker. I was pretty surprised to see the card was red, but there it is. Cats had 45 minutes to play with 14 men, and although Rodney So'ialo was soon shown a yellow for being a boofhead once too often I went into halftime pretty confident we could use our numerical advantage to overturn the 1-point deficit.

And so it proved. More strong running from Jerry Collins and some feeble Cats tackling saw Jason Spice over the line early in the 2nd half. Converted by Holwell AGAIN from the sideline. Watch out Mehrts - this guy is playing bloody well. 21-15.

But the Cats just wouldn't go away. They continued to put pressure on our defence, but often lost the ball through sloppy handling or poor basic skills. In the end they got 2 penalties and the game was tied up 21 all. In the same period the Hurricanes butchered a certain try which would have killed the game - disappointing.

Soon the Hurricanes got their try though. From a scrum 5 metres out the ball was spun to Umaga who hit the ball up and from the ruck the ball was shifted wide quickly for Brent Ward to dot down in the corner. AGAIN converted by Holwell the hero and 28-21.

From there it was great Hurricanes defence that won the day. Man of the match for me was Holwell again - I can't remember him making a mistake and his kicks were always outstanding. I was annoyed that we hadn't finished those South Africains off much sooner with their 14 men in the second half. Still, a win is a win is a win and the Hurricanes have got three wins in a row now. These bonus points are going to be very handy come the final washup - we've won 3 and lost 2 but thanks to our bonus points we're only 1 behind the Highlanders who've won 4 and lost just 1. Now we move on to play the much tougher Australian and New Zealand teams starting with the Chiefs next week at the tin in Wellington. If we can win that game we're very much on track to make the semifinals, if not I don't think we're a chance. Week 6 is actually a very big week in Super 12 - try picking these games in Rugbycomp!

Blues v Brumbies
Highlanders v Crusaders
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Waratahs v Reds
Cats v Sharks

If you can get all of those right, you should consider a career in fortune telling.

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Getting up to watch a Super 12 game live at 3am is an awesome effort in itself Nathan, let alone a Canes vs Cats game. You Wellington supports are hard-core!
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