Fired by a standout performance from five-eighth Beauden Barrett, the Hurricanes celebrated skipper Conrad Smith’s 100th game with a nine-try 60-27 Super Rugby victory over the Cheetahs on Saturday.
Four first-half tries gave the Hurricanes a 29-20 lead at the break, both teams running the ball with flair and pace but both also guilty of some woeful defensive lapses.
The free-running match featured just a handful of scrums, and once the Hurricanes tightened up their defence in the second half, it looked inevitable they would snap an eight-match losing streak.
Hooker Dane Coles, lurking out on the wing, opened the scoring for the Hurricanes after just five minutes but the Cheetahs replied in kind almost immediately.
Centre Johann Sadie made the initial break, drawing the defence and timing his pass for fullback Willie Le Roux to score between the posts.
A couple of Johan Goosen penalties extended the Cheetahs lead to six, but Barrett pegged back the margin, chipping behind the defence and chasing down the kick for a superb solo try.
Another penalty gave the home team a 17-13 lead after 25 minutes, but a le Roux half-break from the restart split open the Hurricanes’ defence, and Philip van der Walt latched on to the well-timed offload to grab back the lead 20-17.
Two Hurricanes’ tries in the last 10 minutes meant they took real momentum into the break, superb handling featuring in both as halfback Chris Smylie and fullback James Marshall crossed for the bonus point.
The Cheetahs were hit early in the second half when le Roux was sinbinned for a deliberate knock on, and the Hurricanes capitalised with two tries in the space of five minutes to Barrett and Jeremy Thrush.
And although the South Africans hauled one back through lock Francois Uys after 52 minutes, the Hurricanes were not to be denied their first win since May last year.
Matt Proctor, Smith and Alapati Leiua all crossed in the closing 20 minutes, as the Hurricanes pressured the Cheetahs into turnover after turnover, and converted clinically for a satisfying win.