A last-gasp conversion deep into extra time gave the Wellington Hurricanes a 38-37 victory over the Coastal Sharks in Napier Friday, denying the South Africans back-to-back wins in New Zealand.
The Sharks were up 37-31 with 90 seconds to go and appeared poised for victory but the Hurricanes maintained possession and Ngani Laumape’s try made it 37-36.
Pivot Ihaia West, standing in for the injured Beauden Barrett, then coolly slotted the conversion six minutes after the full-time siren.
It capped a pulsating match in which the lead changed five times as both teams left nothing in the tank.
Both sides scored four tries, with braces for Hurricanes centre Laumape and Sharks winger Lukhanyo Am.
“That was bloody tough: they’re a quality outfit and we made it really hard on ourselves at times,” said Hurricanes skipper Brad Shields.
“That last six minutes, I’m really proud of the way we stayed composed and patient. We knew we had to chase the game at the end and we left it a bit late.”
The Sharks showed the same flair displayed in last week’s 63-40 win over the Auckland Blues but conceded 15 penalties.
Four of the infringements came after the 80-minute siren, allowing the Hurricanes to keep possession and set up Laumape’s match-winner on the right wing.
“I’m disappointed and I don’t know how the rest of the guys feel,” said Sharks captain Ruan Botha.
“A few of the calls didn’t go our way but hats off to the Hurricanes, they stuck in right to the end and got a victory.”
A helter-skelter first-half began with a Sharks penalty before Jordie Barrett scored the opening try for the Hurricanes when he outflanked the Sharks’ defence.
Laumape followed up his first five-pointer when Ihaia West put him through with a tricky no-look pass.
This from your back-up playmaker.
No Beauden Barrett, no worries.
— Christy Doran (@ChristypDoran) April 6, 2018
But two tries in four minutes to Am and Louis Schreuder gave the Sharks the lead, only for the Hurricanes to regain it when Vince Aso gathered a kick and beat Sibusiso Nkosi in a race to the line.
A Sharks penalty and Am’s second try, the result of quality passing in the buildup, put the Sharks up 27-19 at half time.
The furious pace slowed after the restart as the home team twice narrowed the gap to two points with penalty kicks.
Tyler Paul’s 73rd minute try, set up by a searing run from fullback Curwin Bosch, appeared to have opened a decisive lead for the Sharks until Laumape’s late heroics.
© Agence France-Presse (with additional edits from Richard Barrett).