The Hurricanes have claimed their first win of the 2013 Super Rugby season, defeating the Crusaders 29-28 in a remarkable topsy-turvy fixture to open round four.
The hosts were out-scored four converted tries to two but they showed spirit to conjure victory having trailed 28-19 with 20 minutes to play, when they stood on the precipice of a third consecutive defeat and their Super Rugby campaign appeared dead.
The Crusaders, seven-time Super Rugby champions, seemed home when they crossed at the three-quarter mark for their fourth converted try, their improved efforts in the second stanza seemingly breathing life into a campaign that had seemed moribund after individual mistakes and poor execution from both sides had marred the first 40 minutes.
But Hurricanes fly-half Beauden Barrett kicked his fifth penalty goal from as many attempts, after Crusaders No. 8 and captain Kieran Read had been penalised for going off his feet in ruck, and Alapata Leiua then ran home for a converted intercept try with seven minutes to play to claim the home team's victory.
Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith paid tribute to his team's strength of character, saying the game "could have gone either way".
"They'd be disappointed it's slipped away but we've had a couple of them so we know how it feels," Smith said, "We just wanted to hang in there. We knew a pass would stick. We felt we were playing good footy ... we've kept composure, we've kept belief in what we;re trying to do."
Read described the game as "a tough battle, all New Zealand games are". "We probably did enough at the start of the second half but then let them back into it," Read said. "They capitalised on our mistakes."
Ryan Crotty produced a piece of individual brilliance to score the Crusaders' first try of the season, after their five tries-to-nil shellacking by the Blues in their opening fixture in round three. The visitors' inside centre claimed the ball at first receiver from a ruck inside the Hurricanes' 22 then ran through tackles from Barrett, Jason Eaton, Time Bateman and Leiua to touch the ball down.
Flynn scored from a rumble close to the line five minutes into the second half to ice a period of sustained phase play, and Israel Dagg won a foot race after the Crusaders had toed the ball ahead when a Hurricanes attack broke down inside the visitors' 22.
Julian Savea reduced the margin 16 minutes into the second half, running through tackles from Tom Marshall and Dagg to reap maximum reward after the Crusaders had turned over a lineout inside their own 22.
The Crusaders reclaimed a nine-point buffer when Dan Carter crossed for the bonus-point try, the fly-half touching down to finish after combining well with Tom Taylor to create a break on halfway.
The Crusaders looked dangerous every time they had ball in hand, and Matt Todd touched down in the left corner to cap a multi-phase move only for the score to be ruled out because Read had knocked on in the preceding ruck.
That decision was to prove pivotal, as the Hurricanes somehow bounced back to claim a victory from defeat.
The Crusaders can claim some solace from their two bonus points, after scoring four tries and losing by fewer than seven points, but they will return home thinking they should have claimed a full house.
"Any other day, we'd have come away with the win but the Hurricanes hung in there," Read said. "You've got to give it to them for sticking in there."
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