The Crusaders have beaten the Hurricanes by golden point in a breathtaking contest at Sky Stadium in Wellington this afternoon.
It was a back-and-forward contest and for a period it looked as if the Hurricanes would pull off a sensational upset. Skipper Ardie Savea put in a brilliant performance, leading from the front and winning turnover ball multiple times to keep the Crusaders at bay.
But the Crusaders tied the game late, and took the win early in extra time to escape with a sigh of relief.
In the opening moments, 19-year-old Hurricanes debutant Ruben Love burst out of the gate, breaking through the line with his first touch, much to the delight of the crowd. He then played a nicely weighted kick deep into the left corner.
Jordie Barrett had the first opportunity to open the scoring with a 50m penalty in the third minute, and while he got plenty of distance, the accuracy was wayward.
But he soon got the chance to redeem himself. The Crusaders gave away another penalty right out in front 30m out, and Barrett made no mistake to give the Hurricanes the early lead after nine minutes.
The Crusaders came charging back down the field immediately after. They had numbers to left and swung it to George Bridge. The All Black winger was brought to ground short of the line and flipped by Devan Flanders over the line.
However, the TMO showed a flying Ngani Laumape over the top had forced the ball down over the line, and the try was awarded.
Richie Mo’unga converted and just like that the Crusaders had the lead inside 11 minutes.
A bad moment followed for the visitors, Jack Goodhue limping off after just 20 minutes with what appeared to be a potentially serious injury.
It did not appear to matter, as Bridge crashed over again on the left wing to extend the lead to 11. However, Joe Moody, playing in his 100th Super Rugby game, also limped off the park.
The Hurricanes took advantage. Xavier Numia initially broke the line, and after a couple of quick phases Laumape used his power and speed to slice his way through and dived over the line to bring the Hurricanes back into the contest.
But he was isolated with the ball after the restart, giving the Crusaders a penalty – Mo’unga choosing to take the easy points and extend the lead back to seven.
It was important he did so, because the Hurricanes remarkably scored straight off their own restart, Julian Savea charging over the line after James Blackwell initially made the run down the right wing following a Crusaders mistake.
Jordie Barrett converted and suddenly the scores were level after a crazy few minutes, with ten minutes still to play in the first half.
It was the Hurricanes who had the final chance of the half, the home side stringing several phases together deep in Crusaders territory before Julian Savea crashed over the line but was held up.
There was still one more moment of craziness before the half time whistle – Crusaders captain Scott Barrett asked for a captain’s referral for foul play against Laumape.
Replays showed the Hurricanes centre struck Barrett in the chest with an elbow off the ball and it was deemed a yellow-card offence.
Despite being a man short coming back out of the sheds, Wes Goosen touched down in the left corner after just three minutes. A brilliant conversion from Jordie Barrett saw the Hurricanes take an unlikely seven point lead.
The Hurricanes had the chance to extend their lead with a lineout just five metres out, but Dane Coles overthrew the pass and the Crusaders quickly counter-attacked, running the length of the field, but a kick through from Will Jordan went dead, halting the attack.
The Crusaders were awarded a penalty soon after, and Mo’unga slotted it to close the gap to four with 25 minutes to go.
Moments late Numia turned the ball over in the ruck and it found Laumape on the left wing, who chipped a kick through, David Havili just beating him to touch the ball down over the line.
But the Hurricanes won a penalty soon after, and Jordie Barrett made no mistake to restore the seven-point advantage.
The Crusaders were not going to go down easily, and soon enough they found numbers to the right, Mo’unga slinging a dubious pass to Sevu Reece, who ran over and touched down under the posts.
It was anyone’s game with the scores level and Jordie Barrett was the one who wanted to take the game by the scruff of the neck, attempting a stunning 65 metre penalty. It had the distance but it was pulled left.
The Crusaders brought the ball back down the field and Mo’unga set himself in the pocket to try and steal the game with a last-minute drop goal, but pushed it wide right.
That was the last chance of regular time, and for the second game in a row it went to extra time and golden point.
The Crusaders kicked off but quickly regained possession after charging down a box kick in the Hurricanes 22m. Havili sat back in the pocket and promptly slotted the drop goal to seal the victory.