Galeforce winds and sheeting rain battered both teams, but it was the Hurricanes who stormed to a 41-0 Super Rugby quarter-final win over the Sharks in Wellington.
The win means the Hurricanes become the second Kiwi team to make next week’s semi-finals, joining the Highlanders after they edged the Brumbies 15-9 in Canberra on Friday.
A masterful kicking display from All Blacks pivot Beauden Barrett, combined with halfback TJ Perenara’a superb running game laid the base for the comprehensive six-try win.
The Sharks made the early running on Saturday night, keeping the ball close and making judicious use of the lineout drive.
Their hard work was rewarded with a couple of early penalties, but five-eighth Garth April’s kicking proved no match for Westpac Stadium’s swirling winds.
In contrast, Barrett’s radar was spot on – he landed a 13th minute penalty into the teeth of the gale then five minutes later unleashed a raking punt down the left wing for Jason Woodward to haul in.
Centre Matt Proctor latched onto the offload, and although he was brought up just short, prop Loni Uhila proved unstoppable from close range.
The Hurricanes again made the most of their chances in the 21st minute, Perenara darting down the blindside from an attacking scrum before James Marshall dived over in the corner to stretch out the lead to 13-0.
The Sharks’ best chance came three minutes later, but TMO Glen Newman ruled a double movement as skipper Tendai Mtawarira reached out in the tackle and the scoreline remained unchanged going into halftime.
The loss of skipper Dane Coles soon after the restart looked ominous, but the Hurricanes responded by running in three tries in 12 minutes to lead 34-0 as the hour mark ticked over.
Perenara featured in all three, sparking the first with a booming run down the left before offloading for Woodward to cross.
He made a telling break from some aimless Sharks kicking to set up the second for lock Vaea Fifita then scored the third himself, slicing through from a Uhila quick tap.
The Hurricanes were unrelenting during the closing 20 minutes, flanker Brad Shields diving over right on the final whistle to wrap up the win.