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Barrett-less Hurricanes beat dogged Bulls

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/05/2017

The Hurricanes overcame the absence of headache-troubled playmaker Beauden Barrett to beat the Bulls 34-20 and climb to third outright in the Super Rugby standings.

Another bright attacking display from the defending champions was enough to outscore the dogged hosts five tries to two, snaring their 10th win from 12 games.

The Hurricanes remain in contention to overhaul the unbeaten Crusaders at the top of the New Zealand Conference but that outcome could be out of their hands.

They must win their three remaining games to have a chance and will hope to regain the services of All Blacks first five-eighth Barrett, who was a late withdrawal from Saturday's clash in Pretoria because of headaches.

Barrett, who suffered a knock to the head during last week's defeat of the Cheetahs, has been waking with headaches this week, coach Chris Boyd says.

Despite training well, the 25-year-old was withdrawn in Pretoria as a precaution.

Otere Black did a sound job in his place, helping the Hurricanes open up a 24-13 lead at halftime before the outcome was effectively decided with a try to Leni Apisai to push 34-13 clear entering the final quarter.

The Bulls dominated the closing stages, helped by a wave of penalties, creating a consolation try for reserve forward Nick de Jager.

The Hurricanes were at their best early on, with tries to star backs Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape the best of their four first-half tries.

Winger Wes Goosen and lock Mark Abbott bagged the others while winger Duncan Matthews crossed early for a Bulls side prepared to chance their arm but lacking the killer execution of the visitors.

The Bulls, who suffered the ninth loss of a disappointing season, announced during the week they will take on former All Blacks coach John Mitchell in a head role in July.

As well as Barrett, there will be concern over the health of Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea and lock Mark Abbott, who were both forced out of the game after suffering head knocks.

The Hurricanes must win games against the Force and Chiefs to set up a shot at passing the Crusaders when the two powerhouses meet in their last round-robin match in Wellington in July.

However, the Crusaders can seal the Kiwi top spot before then, if they beat the Highlanders in Christchurch next week.

The results this weekend means the Blues are guaranteed to finish last in the New Zealand Conference, with their play-off hopes over.

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