What time is it?........GAME TIME!!!!
A balmy Friday night in Christchurch and a small but vocal crowd settled in at Cone Stadium, enjoying their beers and takeaways and eagerly awaiting the start of the first match of the 2000 Super12 season, the Hurricanes vs the Sharks.
This was an historic occasion in the history of Cone Stadium as it was the final game at the old stadium as the owners are relocating to more auspicious premises tomorrow. (Think of the Athletic Park to Westpac Trust Stadium move and you are close to understanding the jump in quality of venue!)
The rugby was up to standard as we were thoroughly entertained by the Hurricanes and the Sharks as the battled it out in a high scoring rugby fest in front of a capacity crowd at the new Westpac Trust Stadium in downtown Wellington.
The first half was a little sloppy, and the scoreline see-sawed back and forward to end the half at 17-15 to the Sharks.
The Hurricanes scored two great tries, the first one was a classic to Jonah in which the big man ran onto a short ball, fended of the first defender, chipped the ball over the head of the next one and beat the defence to recover the pill and crash over under the posts.
The second was an excellent team try, a raid into Shark territory which ended with a try to Cullen, thanks to some great ball handling skills from 2nd choice No. 8 Gordon Falcon who caught the ball on his finger tips and then offloaded perfectly to Cullen on the outside.
The Sharks scored some great tries of their own, with Chad Alcock, who was looking very sharp at halfback all game, fooling the Hurricanes defence to sneak through a gap at the base of the scrum and scamper 30 metres in for a great try and then A J Venter dotting down in the same corner after Terblance flew high over Jonah (who didn't actually jump!) to tap a high bomb back to a supporting player who offloaded it to Venter to crash in.
Their third try of the half was a classic. A clever dummy around from a lineout just out from the Hurricanes lineout saw big Ollie Le Roux crash over and come up looking like he just found a life time pass to KFC!
The Hurricanes went to the dressing room at the half looking pretty annoyed with themselves, while they had played very well on attack their defence was pretty disorganised, especially in cover from the back three where at least twice Lomu and Cullen let highballs bounce because it appeared neither of them called for it.
Well they obviously got a rocket in the second half as they came out on fire, running riot over the Sharks, with Cullen and Lomu both dotting down again, on the end of some slick backline play.
The teams exchanged penalties for a while, to see the Hurricanes holding onto a 33-23 lead with about 10 minutes to go.
By this time Jonah had limped off with a hamstring/thigh problem to be replaced by ex-Crusader Daryl Lilley who played very well (good to see an ex-Crusader performing!) and was rewarded with a great try under the sticks after the Predator, Tana Umaga, popped a beautiful no-look pass back over his head to Lilley after a rampaging run into Shark territory.
All in all a great game, and a wonderful way for the Hurricanes to start their 2000 campaign. I'm sure the rugby powers are very happy to have such a highscoring spectacle as the first match up, especially to see the big guns, Jonah, Tana and Christian turning it on in style.