Controversial end as Hurricanes hold Sharks

The Hurricanes and the Sharks battled to a 13-all draw in a controversial Super 14 rugby match played in atrocious conditions in Wellington on Saturday.

Australian referee Paul Marks handed out a red card, a yellow card and awarded a penalty try, before ending the game without reacting to Hurricanes centre Conrad Smith being taken out of play in a potentially try-scoring move.

The draw left the Sharks still unbeaten but six points behind the table-topping Canterbury Crusaders, who have a bye this weekend, while the Hurricanes remain just outside the top four.

In a match played in heavy rain, which led to handling errors and less attacking opportunities, there were only two tries, both in the last 10 minutes.

The Sharks were awarded a penalty try when the Hurricanes were accused of collapsing a maul on the line, and the Hurricanes replied with a try by Andrew Hore to equalise.

Conrad Smith appeared to be heading for the match-winning score on full time as he ran unopposed towards the ball bouncing over the tryline when he was tackled from behind by Sharks midfielder Bradley Barritt.

Frustrated Hurricanes players unsuccessfully demanded a penalty try on the field but were diplomatic about the incident when questioned later.

“The ref made his call and you can’t change that call so the boys will have to put up with it,” Hurricanes captain Rodney So’oialo said.

Smith, who appealed vigorously to the referee, was also cool about the disputed tackle.

“We had our chance but we made a lot of mistakes and that’s probably what we will look back on rather than the last part of the game.

“I don’t know about the last call. I’m sure it will be reviewed on talkback non-stop but it’s one of those things that happens.”

Sharks captain Johann Muller was quick to note his side was saved by their defence.

“We’ve only conceded six tries in seven games, that’s absolutely outstanding. I think it’s quite disappointing to end with a draw but I think our defence was outstanding again.”

Two minutes before the end the Sharks had their own chance to break the deadlock with a kickable penalty but the attempt by replacement halfback Rory Kockott hit the upright,

The only first-half points came from early penalties by Ruan Pienaar for the Sharks and Jimmy Gopperth for the Hurricanes and it took another 40 minutes before the scoreboard moved.

Ten minutes into the second half Francois Steyn put the Sharks up 6-3 with a 49m penalty.

Going into the final quarter, Hurricanes prop Neemia Tialata was sent to the sin-bin for a blatant shoulder charge on Stefan Terblanche.

The Sharks had their own meltdown five minutes later when Epi Taione received a red card for head-butting Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush in front of the referee.

In the final 10 minutes Gopperth levelled the scores with a penalty before referee Marks awarded the Sharks a penalty try, although television replays showed the forward drive never collapsed.

The Hurricanes immediately came back with Hore driven over the line in a maul and Gopperth landed the equalising conversion from wide out.—AFP

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