Hurricanes take three from three

In a first spell that leaned heavily on set-pieces, both teams struggled to get their Super 12 groove on between frequent stoppages.

Yet the opening of the match couldn�t have been a more marked contrast. Despite mild, overcast conditions at Durban�s Absa stadium, the action inside the Shark cage is all local: returning No 10 Herkie Kruger knocking over a 2nd minute dropkick and No 12 Butch James a 41m penalty.

6-0 Sharks. Slippery fullback Brent Russell�s almost through next.

A dream start for the homeside as last week�s Hurricanes heroes look decidedly shaky - Jerry Collins and Rodney So'oialo behind a back-peddling scrum, first-five Jimmy Gopperth slicing his clearances and winger Ma'a Nonu spilling a crosskick in-goal only for Shark Adrian Jacobs to knock-on a certain try.

Don't tear up the script just yet. As they did last week against the Cats, the visitors absorb the early pressure. And as it did last week... that pressure dissipates, although the twin losses of Russell (injured) and prop Eduard Coetzee (stomping) don�t help the Sharks cause.

Neither team look like scoring, but three Jimmy Gopperth penalties in the space of six minutes mid-way through the first half see the visitors take a 9-6 lead, before James knocks over his second penalty shortly before the break.

Halftime score: 9-all.

A tropical downpour hits the stadium minutes into the second 40, as coach Colin Cooper brings Tana Umaga off the bench for Tane Tuipulotu.

Perhaps inspired by the return of their regular captain, the Hurricanes flood through on a Lome Fa'atau kick & chase, and (with referee Matt Goddard playing advantage) prop Neemia Tialata looks to barge over... only to lose the ball.

Gopperth (who would go on to score 24 of his side�s tally) settles for his fourth penalty. 12-9 in the 51st minute, and the Hurricanes continue getting to the breakdown in greater numbers.

As a result, as the half evolves, crucial turnovers swing their way.

Tialata gets another chance and after four phases on the Sharks line, fullback Riki Flutey's weighted crosskick is snared on the edge of the in-goal area by Ben Herring. The flanker doesn�t waste any time dotting it down. Gopperth�s conversion gives the Hurricanes a 10-point lead at 19-9.

Mix in more sustained pressure from the forwards and a sharp inside ball from Umaga, and the lead extends when Nonu and centre Conrad Smith help the no 10 add a try to his swag of points.


Then comes the frenzy. Two quick tries to the Sharks. The first a blistering individual effort from winger Henno Mentz in the 34th minute, the second to centre Adrian Jacobs. Conversely, where there was once spark from the Hurricanes, there is now slumber. It's enough to burn the sleep out of any fan's eyes.

James' successful conversions put the home team
within a seven-pointer of victory.

At the death, several knock-ons appear to rob them of that chance - but Mentz breaks out of his 22 and up the lefthand touch looking for a sequel. With the crowd on their feet and Umaga closing in, he kicks ahead and Gopperth is there to run the ball into touch.

Final score: 29-23 to the Hurricanes.

On 13 competition points, the Hurricanes now head back to New Zealand, undefeated, for six home games. The first against the Bulls next Saturday.

Hurricanes. Tries: Ben Herring, Jimmy Gopperth. Conversions: Gopperth (2) . Penalties: Gopperth (5).
Sharks. Tries: Henno Mentz, Adrian Jacobs. Conversions: Butch James (2) Penalties: James (2). Drop-kick: Herkie Kruger.

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