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Conrad Smith scored two tries as the Wellington Hurricanes kept their Super Rugby playoff hopes alive with a 23-22 victory over the Canterbury Crusaders in a Christchurch thriller on Saturday.
Crusaders replacement back Tyler Bleyendaal came up short with a penalty from halfway in the 80th minute to allow the visitors to take the spoils and some revenge for the 42-14 defeat they suffered earlier this season.
“That is pretty pleasing to beat this bunch after they put 40 on us at home,” Hurricanes skipper Smith said in a pitchside interview.
“They are too good a side to let them play, you've got to get up and shut them down.”
Quite how the Hurricanes won a match where they nearly conceded a try in the second minute and were distinctly second best at the set piece as well as in the disciplinary stakes will have baffled more than a few fans at Rugby League Park.
Missing All Blacks Dan Carter, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg to injuries sustained in the international window, the seven-times champion Crusaders now face a crunch meeting with the competition-leading Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
“Just one of those days where we did some good things and we also did some pretty dumb things, so disappointing,” Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said.
The Crusaders started with the good things and Tom Taylor, deputising for Carter at flyhalf, kicked the first two of his five penalties to give the Crusaders a 6-0 lead in the 11th minute.
The Hurricanes were brought to life by the first of Beauden Barrett's three penalties in the 15th minute and a minute later they had taken the lead with Smith's try after brilliant work from Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor.
Tom Taylor had added another penalty when Crusaders winger Zac Guildford ran 70 metres through two tackles with a blistering turn of pace to score his team's only try in the 37th minute and put the home side 16-10 ahead.
The Hurricanes snatched the advantage back immediately, however, when Smith somehow snaked his way through the defence to score his second try and Barrett converted to send the visitors into the break 17-16 up.
Tom Taylor added another penalty immediately after the restart and his fifth in the 54th minute but Barrett responded with two of his own in the 65th and 72nd minutes to set up the dramatic finale. – Reuters