The Hurricanes snatched a thrilling 38-37 win over the Sharks following a last-gasp try by Ngani Laumape in the 85th minute of Friday’s Super Rugby battle in Napier.
The Sharks will return to South Africa wondering how they let this one slip after the referee allowed play to continue some five minutes after the full-time hooter had sounded.
The Durban-based side had led by eight points at the break, and by six after the regulation 80 minutes of play, but an extended late onslaught from the Hurricanes eventually saw Laumape score the match-winning try that broke the Sharks’ hearts.
Following the final whistle, images of a distraught Tendai Mtawarira on the sidelines painted a poignant picture of just how much this defeat would have hurt for the Sharks.
The fact remains that the Sharks were undoubtedly the better team over the 80 minutes, but when replacement Franco Marais was yellow-carded late in the game, it finally provided the Hurricanes with the decisive advantage.
A 75th-minute try to Tyler Paul looked to have won the game for the Sharks, but Canes flyhalf Ihaia West then slotted an important penalty, before the Canes launched their final attack, which saw Laumape emerge as the hero.
The Sharks had previously produced a simply sublime first-half performance based on direct, forward firepower to surge into a handy 27-19 lead at the break.
It was clear that they had gained immense confidence from last weekend’s highly impressive 60-43 victory over the Blues, and the Sharks’ in-form forwards again ensured their side enjoyed ascendancy in the physical exchanges.
This direct approach effectively laid the foundation for Lukhanyo Am to score a brace of tries, while Louis Schreuder dotted down off the back of a powerful scrum in the 25th minute.
The Hurricanes did manage three tries of their own through Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso, but the difference at the break proved to the goal-kicking of Sharks Robert du Preez, who slotted all three conversions and two penalties.
The Canes did cut the deficit back to just two points as West slotted two penalties soon after the restart, but Du Preez responded with his third penalty to send the Sharks into a 30-25 lead heading into the final quarter.
At that stage, though, no one could have predicted the dramatic final passages of play, which eventually saw the Canes snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Hurricanes 38 – Tries: Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape (2), Vince Aso. Conversions: Ihaia West (3). Penalties: West (4).
Sharks 37 – Tries: Lukhanyo Am (2), Louis Schreuder, Tyler Paul. Conversions: Robert du Preez (4). Penalties: Du Preez (3).
African News Agency (ANA)