WELLINGTON (AFP) – A late try by Luke Jacobson saw the Waikato Chiefs snatch a 35-29 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes and snap an 11-match losing streak in a Super Rugby Aotearoa clash yesterday.
In the battle at the bottom, the Hurricanes, playing on their home ground, held a commanding 26-7 lead at half-time but by the final whistle they were the only winless side left in the New Zealand competition.
In a frantic finish, 31 points were scored in the closing 25 minutes including four converted tries by the Chiefs as the Hurricanes fell apart.
At the break, the Chiefs were in danger of a 12th consecutive loss, which would have been a record losing streak by a New Zealand Super Rugby side.
But when replacement back Chase Tiatia, a former Hurricanes player, took the field he teamed with Damian McKenzie to produce two tries in two minutes to ignite the Chiefs dramatic burst.
“We never gave up,” a jubilant Chiefs captain Sam Cane declared. “It would have been pretty easy after the last 10 or so game to fold when we were three tries down but I’m really proud of how we stuck to our guns and never game up and fought our way back.”
But the result stunned Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow. I’m actually lost for words,” he said.
“We’ve got to have a hard look at ourselves. Leaking points like that in the second half is not good enough.” In a clash where defensive lines were often sacrificed to create attacking opportunities, Ngani Laumape emerged as a key figure in establishing the Hurricanes’ first-half dominance.
With the scored locked at 7-7 following converted tries by Hurricanes scrumhalf Luke Campbell and Chiefs hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho, Laumape was instrumental in the next three tries as the Hurricanes edged ahead.
He cut through the Chiefs line before sending a long pass to hooker Ricky Riccitelli who scored in the corner.
Laumape followed up with a well-weighted cross-kick for Salesi Rayasi to score in the opposite corner and just before half-time he delivered a well-timed pop pass for Rayasi to score his second try.
When Tiatia took the field he scored one try himself and put Brad Weber in for the second as the gap closed to 26-21, and the Chiefs then hit the front with a try to Naitoa Ah Kuoi from a lineout drive.
After a Jordie Barrett penalty regained the lead for the Hurricanes, McKenzie and Tiatia combined again to get the Chiefs up to the line where Jacobson dived over to settle the outcome.