It will keep the wolf from the door for Mark Hammett for a week or two. Commentator Tony Johnson
A great relief all round
The Hurricanes 60-27 victory over the Cheetahs on Saturday was very welcome for coaches, players and fans. It was also a fitting tribute to captain Conrad Smith, possibly the greatest centre the country has ever seen, playing his 100th game for the Hurricanes. Furthermore it will allow Cartoonist Tom Scott to draw something positive about the Wellington based franchise.
Cheetahs V Hurricanes: excitement guaranteed!
Don’t look away or you’ll miss something was an early observation for one of last Saturday’s commentators. The Cheetahs always play an attractive, attacking style of rugby and unlike some other teams from the republic, pass the ball rather than kick it way.
They score plenty of tries, but no doubt to the frustration of their coach, have a leaky defence which means they often lose when they should have won.
Traditionally Cheetahs-Hurricanes matches have been high scoring affairs with the average score in the previous three encounters before Saturday being 42-42! Dedicated Hurricanes fans will vividly remember the last match at the Cake Tin when the home team was leading about 23-3. Ten minutes and three converted tries later, the Cheetahs were ahead and went on to win the match.
This time the visitors were definitely in the game until early in the second half, when the classy Willie Le Roux (pictured above), was sent off for deliberately knocking the ball down. There was definitely some doubt about the incident and unfortunately for the Cheetahs, the Hurricanes scored two tries while he spent his ten minutes in the sin bin.
The Hurricanes: a team transformed
The improved passing was crucial and Chris Smylie, replacing TJ Perenara at half back, led the way. Smylie set the backline alight by giving Beauden Barrett quick, run-on ball which he and his outside used very well.
There was no doubt that the Hurricanes were well aware of the pressure on them to perform and they responded in the best possible way by scoring nine tries to three.
There were a number of factors in the team’s success:
- playing as a team with passion and pride
- accurate throwing from Coles into the lineout
- speed to the loose ball and plenty of turn-overs
- much improved defence, especially in mid-field
- dynamic work from the Savea brothers; great to see Ardie get on the paddock in the run-on team
- excellent handling, hard running and backing up
- varying the play to create doubt in the defenders’ minds, such as Barrett’s chip kick over the top which he re-gathered for a brilliant try.
Another key element to the home team’s success was keeping the ball in hand most of the time. As Smylie put it: As long as we hold the ball, we’ll be OK, that’s Hurricanes football, it’s simple. It’s effective.
One win doesn’t make a Super season
The win last Saturday ended an eight game losing streak. Fittingly centurion Conrad Smith scored one of the late tries. Hurricanes supporters will be hoping that the team can now kick on and have continued success.
Next Friday’s match-up with the Highlanders in Dunedin will be a stern test. The coaches and players know what a winning formula looks like, but can they deliver?
DomPost rugby reporter, Richard Knowler, sums up the current state of the coaching issue:
The Mark Hammett lynch mob may have to put their pitch forks and axes back in the barn as the calls for Tana Umaga to head south subside.