Hurricanes beat Force to close on semis

All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore scored his fifth try of the season and the Wellington Hurricanes boosted their semifinal chances in the Super 14 with a 21-10 win on Friday over the Western Force.

Wellington entered the penultimate regular-season round in third place on the championship table, behind the Canterbury Crusaders and New South Wales Waratahs, and improved to outright second with a methodical, two-tries to one win.

The Hurricanes put aside their usual high-tempo but risky running game in wet and slippery conditions and adopted a style which emphasized territory and possession. They achieved overwhelming advantages in both areas — more than 80% of territory and 56% of possession — but their scoring was heavily constrained by a determined and organised Force defence.

The quality of the defensive performance was demonstrated by the fact the Force held the Hurricanes scoreless for more than 40 minutes, despite those massive advantages of territory and possession, between the 11th minute of the first half, when Hore scored, and the 13th minute of the second, when Piri Weepu enlarged a 10-3 halftime lead with a penalty.

The Hurricanes spent more than 30 minutes of the match inside the Force’s 22 but spent themselves with fruitless raids on an unyielding defensive line, and they failed to gain a valuable four-try bonus point.

”I’m very pleased with the way the boys played, especially in conditions which were not very good for rugby,” Hurricanes captain Rodney So’oialo said.

”We were still trying to get a bonus point but the Force defended very well and made it hard to come out with a win.”

Force lock and captain Nathan Sharpe, who played most of the match with an apparent shoulder injury and won all of his team’s lineout ball, personally rallied the defence. He was well supported among the forwards by young open-side flanker David Pocock and in the backs by Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell, who also seemed to struggle with an injury.

The Force had few opportunities to test the Hurricanes defense but took some consolation, as their own semifinal chances finally ebbed away, with a 75th minute try against the run of play to fullback Cameron Shepherd.

Hore has made try-scoring a habit this season and he closed on the tournament’s top try-scorer — Chiefs winger Lelia Masaga who has seven — with the only try of Friday’s first half.

The Wellington pack rumbled the ball to the goalline in the 11th minute and Hore, driving hard and low, promoted the ball over the line.

Wellington, who will face the Auckland Blues in next week’s last round, had to wait until the 63rd minute when a lineout turnover created their second try, scored by winger Hosea Gear. – Sapa-AP

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