WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The Wellington Hurricanes tested their ability to sneak results from Super Rugby matches they should have lost once too often on Friday and the Jaguares departed the New Zealand capital 28-20 victors after a maiden win over the 2016 champions.
It was a first home Super Rugby defeat for the Hurricanes against a side from outside New Zealand since April 2015, when the then champion New South Wales Waratahs beat them 29-24 at Wellington Regional Stadium.
The Jaguares secured their breakthrough win by harrying the Hurricanes into numerous errors and capitalising on their scoring opportunities to establish a 21-8 halftime lead that was never really threatened by John Plumtree’s side.
When replacement hooker Julian Montoya forced his way over the line to give the South Americans a 28-13 advantage with under 15 minutes remaining, the home side’s fate was sealed.
“We conceded some soft points, which we’ll be disappointed with,” Hurricanes captain TJ Perenara said after the loss, which all but ended his side’s hopes of challenging the Canterbury Crusaders hold on the New Zealand conference title.
“We just didn’t execute for long enough to apply any pressure on them. They’re a really good football team and if you don’t build pressure on them, they’ll put you away like they did to us.”
The Hurricanes have been the recipients of similar compliments from frustrated opposing captains this season, having won nine of their previous 12 games.
Until Friday their only two losses had been at the hands of the Crusaders, who demolished them both times.
The Wellington-based side had sneaked to narrow victories over the Waratahs, Otago Highlanders (twice) and Sunwolves, grabbed a draw with the Chiefs in March and needed some desperate defence to beat the Auckland Blues last week.
In fact, there had been only two occasions when the team clicked and played the type of rugby their fans expect — when they hammered the ACT Brumbies 43-13 on March 1 and then blitzed the Waikato Chiefs 47-19 last month.
They had a scintillating first 20 minutes against the Melbourne Rebels two weeks ago when they raced out to a 26-0 lead only to allow the Australians back into the contest and win 29-19.
On Friday, the Jaguares did concede a first-minute try to Vaea Fifita but never let up after hitting back with a penalty try when Jordie Barrett was sinbinned for a professional foul in the 15th minute.
Agustin Creevy and Jeronomo De La Feunte also crossed in the first half before Montoya gave the visitors the breathing room they needed.
“This is very big for us as a team, we have been working very hard and to come here to Wellington and get a win against the Hurricanes is amazing,” flanker Pablo Matera said.
“There were times in the second half we couldn’t get the ball and we were just tackle and tackle and each one was stronger than the last.
“This is our fourth year in Super Rugby, we keep growing each year and we want to keep growing and be a better team.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)