The Hurricanes were defeated 20-13 by the table-topping Crusaders at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday night in their Rebel Sport Super 14 round seven encounter.
Two converted first half tries and stoic defence by the Crusaders combined to give the visiting team their seventh straight win of the 2008 Super 14.
A try in the opening exchanges to hooker Corey Flynn and another half an hour later to lock Ali Williams courtesy of a cruel bounce against the Hurricanes gave the Crusaders a 17-3 halftime lead, which despite a concerted comeback by the Hurricanes, enabled them to hold on and win.
Flynn's try came from an early ruck turnover won by All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and a subsequent drive over the line from close-quarters, and was quickly converted by first five-eighth Dan Carter for a 7-0 advantage. The Crusaders then went further ahead in the 18th minute through a Carter penalty.
Following an earlier miss, Hurricanes first five-eighth Jimmy Gopperth landed a penalty after 30 minutes to close the deficit to 10-3 and get the 31,571-strong crowd into full chorus. This was also the Hurricanes' 1000th point in Super Rugby in all matches at Westpac Stadium since the first ever match played there against the Sharks.
Williams became the next to score though, crossing for the Crusaders' second seven-pointer. Directing their avenue of attack up the shortside, No. 8 Mose Tuiali'i put through a kick and chase into the Hurricanes 22 towards his opposite Rodney So'oialo, only for the ball to bounce away from the Hurricanes skipper and sit up fortuitously into the arms of Williams to run through and score.
The Hurricanes began the second half positively, pushing hard up-field from the kick-off with good impetus and were rewarded with a second penalty, this time to halfback Piri Weepu. However Carter returned fire with another penalty to restore the earlier 14-point advantage and establish a 20-6 lead.
But the Hurricanes maintained their attacking momentum, pegging the Crusaders back into their own half and several times stretching the committed Crusaders defence for maximum reward. Hooker Andrew Hore thought he had scored in the 54th minute, but referee Steve Walsh ruled an obstruction in the Crusaders' favour.
More second half chances were created, including a near-intercept try to replacement second five-eighth Tane Tu'ipulotu, before Hore was rewarded with a try following the sin binning of Tuiali'i for repeated infringements. Lock Jason Eaton cleanly won a Hurricanes lineout near the line and Hore expertly peeled around and crashed over for this 14th Super rugby try.
Gopperth slotted the conversion to narrow the deficit to 20-13 and then saw a 70th minute chance hit the uprights, which the Crusaders recovered from and averted any further danger.
The Hurricanes tried valiantly to crack the visitors' defence for a long-range try in the dying minutes, but were unable to break through.
Despite the loss, the Hurricanes secured a bonus point in this match, only the second team this year to do so against the Crusaders in seven matches, while during the course of this fixture the Crusaders became the first ever Super Rugby team to score 5000 competition points.
The Hurricanes return to Westpac Stadium to host the Sharks in next Saturday's round eight Super 14 match, while the unbeaten Crusaders have their bye next week..
Scores: At Westpac Stadium: Crusaders 20 (Corey Flynn, Ali Williams tries; Dan Carter 2 pen, 2 con), Hurricanes 13 (Andrew Hore try; Jimmy Gopperth pen, con; Piri Weepu pen). Halftime 17-3.
The Hurricanes side that met the Crusaders at Westpac Stadium on Friday night was:
15 Cory Jane, 14 Ma'a Nonu, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Shannon Paku, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Piri Weepu; 8 Rodney So'oialo (c), 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Neemia Tialata 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger. Reserves: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Tim Fairbrother, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 22 Hosea Gear.
The scoring action (by minute):
2nd: Corey Flynn try. Crusaders 5-0
3rd: Dan Carter conversion. Crusaders 7-0
18th: Carter penalty. Crusaders 10-0
30th: Jimmy Gopperth penalty, Crusaders 10-3
33rd: Ali Williams try. Crusaders 15-3
34th: Carter conversion. Crusaders 17-3
41st: Piri Weepu penalty. Crusaders 17-6
48th: Carter penalty. Crusaders 20-6
68th: Andrew Hore try. Crusaders 20-11
69th: Gopperth conversion. Crusaders 20-13
52nd: Tane No8 Mose Tuiali'i (22) for Tamati Ellison (12)