It took fourteen weeks before the Hurricanes produced a howler.

It took fourteen weeks before the Hurricanes produced a howler.

From a completely dysfunctional lineout to a late Ma’a Nonu blooper, the Hurricanes were not themselves in Nelson where they lost 35-18 to a fired up Crusaders.

The loss doesn’t damage the Hurricanes’ playoff hopes, but a likely season-ending knee injury to reserve hooker Motu Matu’u and a serious concussion to wing Matt Proctor provide late season dents.

Hurricanes first five-eighth Otere Black fends off Crusader Luke Romano at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd was at a loss to explain his side’s malaise after a good build up, but made no excuses for his team’s worst performance of the season.

“We were out-muscled, out-passioned, out-played, all the things we talked about before the match we didn’t want to happen,” he said. “We were up against a side desperate to start their resurrection, but we just didn’t turn up. There aren’t too many positives to take out of that.”

Crusaders’ second-five David Havili fends off two Hurricanes players during his side’s 35-18 win in Nelson.

Boyd said Matu’u’s season was “probably over”, while Proctor was up and about, but would clearly have to through the concussion protocols before being considered again.

Proctor looked to be in serious trouble after putting his head on the wrong side of Crusaders fullback Tom Taylor late in the match and was stretchered off Trafalgar Park.

Boyd hailed the control of Crusaders first five-eighth Dan Carter, who played a masterful hand after returning to his favoured position and kicked six of seven shots at goal.

Crusaders’ first-five Dan Carter looks for a way through the Hurricanes’ defence at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park.

“He guided them through the match, he kicked extremely well. They didn’t play when they didn’t have too,” Boyd said.

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Openside Ardie Savea had been exceptional in his first head to head with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, but Boyd said his side had been collectively beaten to the punch at the tackle.

The Crusaders’ bonus-point win keeps their slim playoff hopes alive, while the Hurricanes need to regroup before they head to Napier next week to play the Highlanders.

More importantly, the door remains open to the Hurricanes’ New Zealand Conference rivals the Chiefs and Highlanders, who can steal home advantage in coming weeks.

Boyd wasn’t sure why the lineout had malfunctioned, but said the Crusaders forwards brought out the worst in the Hurricanes set piece.

Ardie Savea showed off his full array of skill, strength and pace, and his try after halftime will feature on the Super Rugby season highlights reels after he finished off an 80 metre counter attack, and lock James Broadhurst carried the ball strongly.

But mostly the Hurricanes lacked polish. When Nonu held off grabbing a Carter cross kick in the 73rd minute and wing Nemani Nadolo slid past for the try, it ended any hopes of a comeback win, and summed up the night.

Nadolo was a nightmare for the Hurricanes, his power evident from the early exchanges and by full time the Fijian colossus would have set up two tries and scored one himself.

Together with centre Robbie Fruean, Nadolo provided the one-two power punch the Crusaders have lacked all season.

The Hurricanes closed to 18-16 at halftime when hooker Dane Coles grabbed a try with Fruean in the sin bin for dumping wing Nehe Milner-Skudder on his head.

But the visitors were too sporadic.

James Marshall had a forgettable first half at fullback dropping two highballs and was brushed aside by Nadolo on the half-hour mark as halfback Mitchell Drummond’s try gave the home side a 16-3 lead.

Savea’s long range try closed the gap to one point after halftime before TMO Chris Wratt then continued the season’s baffling officiating when he missed a knock on by Matt Todd and awarded a try to wing Nafi Tuitavake to restore the eight-point buffer.

But the TMO didn’t miss any tackles and Nadolo struck again a few minutes later when he blasted through Savea and off-loaded to Todd to push the score out to 30-18 with 20 minutes to play.


Crusaders 35 (Mitchell Drummond, Nafi Tuitavake, Matt Todd, Nemani Nadolo tries, Dan Carter 3 pens, 3 cons)Hurricanes 18 (Dane Coles, Ardie Savea tries, Otere Black con, 2 pens) HT: 16-8 Crusaders.


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