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Hurricane right on time

Fotopress

Friday, March 25, 2005    allblacks.com    Fotopress

Certainly, any temptation to call this one a Titanic struggle would only come about because of the amount of water involved. Yet the young pivot ultimately showed no wounds from last week’s fatal mauling in his own in-goal against the Bulls.

Ultimately. Eight minutes earlier, Gopperth had nearly done it two weeks in a row with a shocking 72nd minute clearance... straight into the hands of Stormers No 11 Jean De Villiers, who was dragged down inches from the line.

Next, before several penalties and the drive of the match put his team in a position to clinch it, Gopperth attempted a late 52m penalty which dipped below the crossbar.

It was a tense finale to a game which - at three penalties apiece - appeared destined to end in a tryless draw.

Earlier, with regular No 8 Rodney So'oialo sidelined by a sprained ankle, first-touch fell to his replacement Thomas Waldrom, the 21 year-old making his starting appearance for the Hurricanes.

But the opening passages of play remained as uneven as the weather (which only a blind man or television commentator would describe as ‘light’ rain). It wasn’t until the 6th minute that Stormers No 10 Chris Rossouw brought the promise of more settled play (and a personal tally of 100 Super 12 points) with a penalty.

Messy stuff. About the only thing not bobbling about at ‘lineout lotto’ time was a bonus number. As both sides struggled to control set-pieces and conditions worsened, the Hurricanes looked to the air with a series of high-kicks and were rewarded with a timely three points.

3-all. A quarter of the match gone and future hero Gopperth threatened to shatter the stalemate with an electrifying break in the 22nd minute. But he couldn’t free the pass and a knock-on ended one of few promising movements in an error-ridden first half.

On the back of quick penalties for Hurricanes blowing into mauls from the side, the next point-scoring opportunity was Rossouw’s. He shaved the posts from a very kickable position, before flanker Ben Herring was binned for the same offence two minutes later and Rossouw nailed attempt number three.

Halftimes: 6-3 Stormers.

Dominating territory, the Stormers extended their lead 9-3 in the second 40, slowing down what little ball the Hurricanes got. Poor kicking options and the substitution of Captain Tana Umaga (struggling with that bruised left thigh) only made matters worse.

It was Easter weekend after all, and salvation put in a temporary appearance in the form of another Gopperth bomb, which fullback Werner Greeff knocked on. Yet even in prime attacking position on the opposition 22, the Hurricanes struggled to capitalise on scoring opportunities.

Almost flush with the left-hand touchline, Gopperth finally brought more relief with a 55th minute penalty. Yet the locals best chance came when Stormers second-five De Wet Barry spilt the ball on halfway and centre Conrad Smith towed through... just on, substitute winger Lome Fa'atau can’t do likewise and (again) potential points evaporate.

Smith had one of the few clean breaks of the night shortly afterwards (after some nice stepping from No 11 Ma'a Nonu) and with the Storm-boys caught offside, Gopperth levelled the score 9-9 with fifteen to play.

Hero one minute, villain the next - first came that shaky clearance, then an ice cool 79th minute dropkick from 20m out just to the left of the uprights. With mere seconds remaining, the first stoppage after the restart is the end of the match.

No doubt as frustrating to play as it was to watch.... some fans will still be left wondering whether they shouldn’t chip in and fly these Hurricanes off-shore more often - such is the trouble they seem to have playing winning rugby at home.

But I digress. Most will too busy nursing serious hangovers tomorrow to worry about that just yet.

Final score: 12-9 Hurricanes.

Scorers

Hurricanes. Penalties: Jimmy Gopperth (3). Dropkick: Gopperth.
Stormers. Penalties: Chris Rossouw (3)

Read the matches the matter. First on allblacks.com