Played in front of a packed house of 17,000 in the northern Sydney suburb, the game could have gone either way in the final minutes as the normally reliable boot of Bernard Foley missed a match-winning penalty for the Waratahs in the 78th minute.
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While Foley will be ruing his one missed chance of the night, no one will be more relieved than Hurricanes debutant Du Plessis Kirifi. The powerful loose forward made the worst possible start on debut when he was guilty of elbowing Michael Hooper off the ball to rule out an Ardie Savea try which would have taken the lead for the Hurricanes.
The 21-year-old loose forward redeemed himself just minutes later when he burst through the middle of a line out drive to score and give the Hurricanes the 19-20 lead with just five minutes remaining.
And despite a frantic finish, that was to remain the final score as the Hurricanes hung on for a gutsy win away from home against last year’s Australian conference winners.
The first half was a good old fashioned arm wrestle with just two points separating the teams at the break. It could have been much worse for the Hurricanes though as they gave up 12 points to the boot of Bernard Foley through a succession of penalties at the breakdown. Aside from the always threatening Israel Folau, the Waratahs never really challenged the Hurricanes line in the first half and couldn’t add to Foley’s four well taken penalties.
It took until the 30th minute before the Hurricanes showed any continuity in their play and it soon resulted in points when Ardie Savea crossed for the Hurricanes first try of the season.
The game burst into life early in the second half when Israel Folau scooped up a loose pass in the midfield and fed to Curtis Rona who scored in the corner despite the best efforts of Ardie Savea to bundle him into touch.
It was the perfect start to the second half by the Waratahs but they couldn’t replicate that moment of magic again in the game as the Hurricanes closed the gap to 19-13.
The final 15 minutes were all the Hurricanes as they pressed on the Waratahs line and had two tries disallowed to Ardie Savea and Ben Lam before Kirifi crossed for the match winner.
Hurricanes captain TJ Perenara said the win didn’t come easy but they were rewarded for applying pressure at key times.
“We got there in the end. I thought we should have capitalised earlier. There were some opportunities where we might have taken three points in hindsight. We were down the right end of the field for a big part of the second half and we didn’t get the reward for a lot of it but we still applied pressure for big parts of the game and that’s what’s got us there at the end of the day,” said Perenara.
Waratahs 19 (Curtis Rona try, Bernard Foley 4 pen, con) Hurricanes 20 (Ardie Savea, Du Plessis Kirifi tries, Jordie Barrett 2 pen, 2 con)
FT | It's a nail-biter at Brookvale as @Hurricanesrugby kick off their season with a one point win over @NSWWaratahs.#WARvHUR #RaiseTheStakes pic.twitter.com/SaaqzJY0wp— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) February 16, 2019