Hurricanes head the Crusaders in a thriller

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Lynn McConnell     02 May 2015     Getty Images

Both were in fine touch with Barrett demonstrating he is a genuine contender as a starting player and showed more touches of class, and speed, before hobbling off after taking a heavy tackle late in the game.

The Crusaders, true to their legacy, kept battling all the way, and there would have been hometown hearts in mouths as they wound down the clock, all the while inching their way towards the danger area, only for a knock-on to end their hopes and the game, two minutes into injury time.

The match was an outstanding display of attacking intent from both sides, never better demonstrated than in the 55th minute when the ball flowed left and right with some outstanding handling, and some equally memorable defence from the Crusaders, before the defence was worn down allowing prop Reg Goodes to score and regain the lead for the Hurricanes.

After a rare kicking duel which ended when Barrett decided to run from midfield, the Hurricanes gained a vital breakthrough when lock James Broadhurst and halfback TJ Perenara, who each made significant contributions for the side, combined to give replacement No.8 Blade Thomson the chance to run in the bonus point try. It was vital in securing the final victory.

A stunning start set the tempo for the game in the time-honoured tradition of the rivals and it was the Crusaders who scored first in the second minute following a penetration between forwards Jeremy Thrush and Ardie Savea by Slade.

He then reverse-passed to second five-eighths Dan Carter who scored under the black dot.

Continuing to mount the pressure, Slade tried to get his outsides into a gap only to pass the ball as Ma'a Nonu got in the way. The ball bounced off him and in like a flash to secure it and run 80m to score was Barrett.

From the re-start the Hurricanes ran the ball and wing Julian Savea charged down the sideline. The ball bounced between the sides like a pinball before the Hurricanes regained it. Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder slipped through the defence and Ardie Savea and Conrad Smith exchanged passes with flanker Brad Shields loomeingup in support to score.

The Crusaders benefited when Nonu was sin-binned for a second breakdown infringement and Slade landed the goal.

But Slade found his way past Thrush and prop Reg Goodes to break into space and when bouncing off Julian Savea he corkscrewed out of the tackle and dived over the line to score.

A penalty goal on halftime by Barrett saw the teams level at the break 17-17.

Lock Sam Whitelock made life difficult in the lineouts for the Hurricanes while Slade continued to shine. No.8 Kieran Read had his hands full in defence especially in attempting to cover the sweeping Hurricanes movements. Significantly, two of the key Crusaders performers of the year, flanker Jordan Taufua and wing Nemani Nadolo were well contained on the night.

Scorers: Hurricanes 29 (Beauden Barrett, Brad Shields, Reg Goodes, Blade Thomson tries; Barrett 3 con, pen) Crusaders 23 (Dan Carter, Colin Slade tries; Slade 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 17-17