Nonu steps up in Hurricanes win - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Nonu steps up in Hurricanes win

04/06/2011 05:33:49 PM Comments (0)

Ma'a Nonu staked his claim for the All Blacks No.12 shirt with a top drawer performance in the Hurricanes' 38-27 Super Rugby win over the Lions on Saturday.

Nonu, the All Blacks incumbent, has been largely overshadowed by Sonny Bill Williams' supreme offloading exploits and imposing all-round game for the Crusaders this year, but he delivered a timely message to the national selectors with a man-of-the-match display in the Hurricanes' win over the fading Lions.

With his team trailing 20-15 at halftime and really struggling to match the physical approach of the John Mitchell-coached Lions, Nonu raised his game several notches with a dominant second-half showing in which he scored a trademark Nonu try and set up a double for winger Hosea Gear with his second assist of the night.

The back-to-back tries took the home team out to 35-20, a lead they were able to protect despite a late flurry from the Lions which yielded a second try to fullback Jaco Taute.

It was just the Hurricanes' fifth win from 14 matches during a lacklustre season, though they have now won consecutive home matches during the past seven days.

The bonus point win also lifts them two spots to ninth on the table, although the Chiefs and Cheetahs can both go back ahead of them with wins this weekend.

The Hurricanes bookended the first half with tries from well worked back moves but otherwise the 40 minutes belonged to the visitors.

Mitchell's men dominated possession, territory and the breakdown battle, and while both teams lacked accuracy for the most part, the Lions shadowed the hosts in the forward exchanges and at set piece time.

The Hurricanes' lineout was unreliable while they were often guilty of under-committing at rucks and attempting to shift the ball wide without first establishing a solid platform.

Things started promisingly enough for the home team when five-eighth Aaron Cruden snaffled a lovely wide pass from Piri Weepu, starting his first match this season, and spotted a gap which he slipped through before muscling over the line in the tackle.

Lions pivot Elton Jantjies hit back with two penalties before the tourists notched their first try, Taute getting a good bounce from an innocuous looking chip kick that Gear ran right past and dotting down.

Cruden replied with a penalty but the Lions stretched the lead to 12 points on the half-hour mark when captain and centre Doppies La Grange got outside his opposite Jayden Hayward, a late inclusion after the injury-enforced scratching of Conrad Smith, and crashed over in the weak attempts of three Hurricanes would-be tacklers.

The hosts got themselves back in the game just before the break, albeit fortuitously, when referee Keith Brown missed a forward pass from Cruden which Nonu took advantage of, busting through the defensive line before finding Gear on his inside.

A couple of Cruden penalties saw the Hurricanes edge in front early in the second stanza but it was Nonu's incision which sealed the result.

He scored under the posts from a set move after receiving an inside pass from Cruden and busting through the line, and then offloaded a neat pass to Gear while off balance, the All Blacks wing finishing off the move for a double.

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