Hurricanes blow Bulls off course

An early four-try scoring blitz fashioned a 50-22 Super 14 triumph for Wellington Hurricanes over title holders Northern Bulls on Saturday.

Centre Ma’a Nonu crossed the line twice and flanker Chris Masoe and centre Conrad Smith once each to give the New Zealanders a 28-3 lead midway through the opening half.

The error-prone South Africans cut the deficit to 18 points by half-time, only to concede three more tries within seven minutes during the second half before a stunned Loftus Versfeld crowd.

Success lifted the Hurricanes five places to third on the southern-hemisphere interprovincial championship standings behind runaway leaders Canterbury Crusaders of New Zealand and the Coastal Sharks of South Africa.

But while the Wellington franchise can dream of a top-four finish and a place in the knockout phase, the first South African winners of the annual competition lie second-last after five consecutive defeats.

“We were shocking,” was the blunt assessment of scrumhalf and captain Fourie du Preez as the Bulls returned to their home ground after a dismal four-match Australasia tour.

But Hurricanes skipper and number eight Rodney So’oialo refused to rub salt into gaping South African wounds, saying: “It is always difficult to come away from Loftus with five points.”

The All Black was far too kind to opponents forced to make 80 tackles and missed a further 39, leading former Springbok and Bulls flyhalf legend Naas Botha to label the defending champions “chaotic”.

“This team contains many of the players who won the title last year, but the system is no longer working. Drastic action is required,” a disillusioned Botha told SuperSport viewers.

Hurricanes outplayed the Bulls in all sectors and forged ahead on five minutes when Nonu slipped past several half-hearted tackles to dot down for the first of seven tries.

Bulls flyhalf Derick Hougaard cut the deficit to four points with a penalty, only for Masoe, Smith and Nonu to add tries. Flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth added four conversions.

While Hurricanes loose forward Jerry Collins was in the sin bin, Pierre Spies got the first of three Bulls tries and Hougaard converted to complete the first-half scoring with the Hurricanes 28-10 ahead.

Gopperth succeeded with one of three penalty attempts before another try spree saw hooker Hikawera Elliott, wing Shannon Paku and fullback Cory Jane score with Gopperth and scrumhalf Piri Weepu adding one conversion each.

A late Bulls revival produced tries for flanker Wikus van Heerden and prop Jaco Engels with replacement flyhalf Morne Steyn converting one to give the final score line a flattering look.

The Hurricanes travel south to Cape Town for a showdown with the resurgent Western Stormers at Newlands next Saturday, while the Bulls face fellow strugglers Otago Highlanders of New Zealand at Loftus the same day.—Sapa-AFP

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