Hurricanes trounce Sharks

The Hurricanes ran in six tries to blow away South Africa's Sharks 41-0 and reach the Super Rugby semi-finals for the second straight year.

The hosts overcame one of the tightest defences in the competition despite appallingly wet conditions in the New Zealand capital, condemning the Sharks to the ignominy of being the first side to be held scoreless in a Super Rugby playoff.

Tries from prop Loni Uhila and fullback James Marshall in four minutes of the first half put the visitors well on the back foot and winger Jason Woodward and lock Vaea Fifita crossed inside two minutes of the second to seal the win.

Outstanding Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara played a part in all four of those tries and added one of his own with a trademark snipe from close range on the hour mark. Flanker Brad Shields scored the sixth in the dying seconds of the match.

"We knew we couldn't be too expansive because of the weather but we wanted to play in the right areas of the field," said co-captain Perenara.

"When we got the opportunity to get into a bit of space, we took it."

The Hurricanes, who lost to the Highlanders in last year's final, joined the reigning champions in the last four but are guaranteed a home semi-final after finishing top of the regular season standings.

They look likely to be without skipper Dane Coles next week, however, after the All Blacks hooker was forced to leave the pitch with what appeared to be a rib injury soon after halftime.

The Durban-based Sharks, who were looking to become the first foreign team to win a playoff match in New Zealand, had started brightly but flyhalf Garth April was unable to deal with the swirling wind and missed two early penalty chances.

Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett had no such problems and kicked the first points of the match in the 14th minute before conjuring up a sublime cross-field kick that led to Uhila's try three minutes later.

Perenara burst down the blindside from an attacking scrum to send Marshall over in the corner and Sharks skipper Tendai Mtawarira was denied a try because of a double movement before the half hour was up.

The Hurricanes turned around 13-0 up but Woodward had added another seven points within as many minutes of the restart after another Perenara charge, in which he rudely barged aside his opposite number Michael Claassens.

Two minutes later and Perenara was fielding a high kick before dancing past a couple of defenders and offloading to Uhila, whose quick hands sent Fifita rampaging to the line.

"In the end, it was an embarrassing effort from us," said Mtawarira.


TJ Perenara dots down for the Hurricanes against the Sharks in Wellington. Photo: PHOTOSPORT