The Hurricanes have overcome off-field disruption to get their Super Rugby campaign back on track with a 29-14 bonus-point win over the lowly Reds in Wellington.
The Hurricanes stood down five players from the match for breaking a team curfew in Durban last week in the lead-up to a disappointing defeat against the Sharks.
Two of the replacements – wingers Wes Goosen and Jason Woodward, brought in for All Blacks Julian Savea and Cory Jane – scored three of the Hurricanes’ five tries on Saturday night, with Woodward bagging a brace.
There was a lack of fluency in the Hurricanes’ play but they did enough to secure a victory that creates a logjam at the top of the New Zealand conference.
They remain fourth in the conference, but they are now just one point below the three sides above them – the Crusaders, the Chiefs and the Highlanders.
The Reds, seeking just their third win of the season, showed plenty of endeavour.
They had a strong scrum and were competitive at the breakdown, but found it hard to break a tight defence.
They made most of the running in the opening spell, but their only reward was fullback Ayumu Goromaru’s two penalties.
The Hurricanes, despite a scratchy display in which discipline and ball security were issues, scored the game’s two first-half tries.
The opener went to Goosen, with the South African-born 20-year-old marking his Super Rugby debut by pulling in a pin-point Beauden Barrett kick and slipping a tackle to score.
The Hurricanes got their second after the Reds went a man down just on the halftime hooter, with loose forward Hendrik Tui yellow-carded for collapsing a maul.
From the penalty, the Hurricanes kicked for the corner and skipper Dane Coles finished off their line-out drive.
Goromaru reduced the margin to 12-9 early in the second half, but the Hurricanes took advantage of Tui’s absence to grab a third try, as Woodward pounced on a loose Reds pass.
The Queenslanders finally breached the Hurricanes defence and it came from a powerful run from wing Chris Feauai-Sautia, whose try made it a three-point game.
But when the Hurricanes managed to get a secure scrum, substitute midfielder Ngani Laumape crashed his way over.
After the full-time hooter, as the Reds went in search of a score that would give them a close-loss bonus point, Woodward grabbed a runaway intercept try.