Job done for Hurricanes
The Hurricanes held off a late Western Force fightback to record a 22-16 win at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday.
Trailing by sixteen points in the second half, the visitors looked like they would be heading home with their tail between their legs until a brilliant try by halfback Alby Mathewson inspired a last-gasp comeback that was utlimately thwarted by the 14-man hosts.
The Hurricanes struck first through the boot of Beauden Barrett in the 12th minute, and the full-back was on hand to convert prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen's try a few minutes later to open up a handy 10-0 lead.
The seven-pointer was just reward for the hosts, who turned pressure into points after Jeremy Thrush ripped the ball off opposite number Toby Lynn and from there the Hurricanes stormed the Force's line before Toomaga-Allen rolled over the chalkdust.
Another tighthead prop nearly scored soon after, but Force front-rower Tetera Faulkner was correctly denied by the TMO.
The Force didn't leave the Hurricanes' danger zone empty-handed though, as Jayden Hayward made ammends for an earlier miss by putting the visitors on the scoreboard in the 27th minute.
The Hurricanes hit back immediately after the restart when a break from Alapati Leiua saw the wing race 70m before putting Brad Shields over in the corner.
Barrett was unable to add the extras from far out and missed a second penalty attempt at goal, but the Hurricanes remained in control as they headed into the half-time sheds 15-3 ahead.
The Force closed the gap slightly after the break thanks to another Hayward penalty, but once again the Hurricanes responded straight away with a try - this time to Tusi Pisi.
With the visitors' defence stretched and plenty options out wide, the Hurricanes pivot opted to have a go himself and it paid off. Barrett added the extras and a molehill turned into a mountain for the Force, who now trailed 6-22.
But rugby's a funny old game, and after a scintillating solo try from former Hurricanes scrum-half Alby Mathewson, the Force were back in business.
From a line-out on the Hurricanes' 22, Force lock Sam Wykes tapped the ball down to his halfback who exploited several holes in the yellow brick wall of defenders and just kept on going until he slammed the ball down under the posts.
Hayward's conversion from bang in front made it a nine-point (13-22) ball game.
The momentum stayed with the Force and when replacement lock James Broadhurst was sin-binned just moments after coming on the field, the ensuing penalty kick by Hayward closed the gap to six with 10 minutes remaining.
However, the Force failed to make their one-man advantage count and the 'Canes held on for the win that takes them into the top six - albeit temporarily pending other results this weekend.
Try: Toomaga-Allen, Shields, Pisi
Con: Barrett 2
Pens: Hayward 3
Hurricanes: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Brad Shields, 6 Jack Lam, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Reggie Goodes, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Karl Lowe, 20 TJ Perenara, 21 Reynold Lee-Lo, 22 Andre Taylor.
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Ed Stubbs, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Richard Brown, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Rory Walton, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Alfie Mafi.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)