Undercover Highlanders Smarter

Hurricanes not up to it, again

By Roger Childs

Happy Highlanders

With the loss to the Crusaders behind them, the Wellington franchise were determined to do  better in Dunedin.

There would be no rain, wind or muddy ground under the roof of the magnificent Forsyth Barr Stadium – ideal conditions for the star-studded, fleet footed Hurricanes backs.

However, once again they were found wanting. The home team with the crowd behind them, were smarter, faster and more adventurous, and ran away with the game in the second half 30-14.

Not without incident

The visitors had the better start and the brothers Barrett conspired to run Jordie in for the first try.  Undoubtedly something practiced many times in the Barrett backyard south of New Plymouth.

Beauden Barrett on one of his few good moves

hen Jordie was under the bar a few minute later: 12-3 with the easy conversion to come. But no, the referee went back to an incident some minutes! before to check on some foul play. Squire was sent off for a swinging arm on Julian Savea; Savea had retaliated which the ref didn’t see, and the Hurricanes got a penalty. Hey, but what about the try????

Down to 14 men the Highlanders didn’t lie down and caught the visitors napping. From a penalty close to the line, Aaron Smith, who had an excellent game overall, raced across the field to the mark and seconds later the talented Tavita Li was over in the corner.

So they went into the sheds at half time up 8-7 rather than 14-3 down.

Running away in the second half

Ben Smith was in good form

A converted try each, saw the Hurricanes ahead 14-13 after 50 minutes, but the home side finished much the better with two further tries.

Both Smiths had great games, and Li and Naholo played well on the flanks and were rewarded with a try each. Squire gave the Highlanders pack more grunt and overall their forwards were hungrier than the visitors.

The home side generally reacted faster to the opportunities than came their way, and were only caught napping once when Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea combined brilliantly from a quick lineout to give the visitors their only points of the second half.

Lessons for the Hurricanes

What went wrong for the visitors? The Highlanders defence was excellent and the talented visiting backline was frequently caught behind the advantage line. Why didn’t they stand deeper?

The Hurricanes lineout was not good and the normally reliable Ricky Riccitelli was astray on at least four occasions with his throws. Why don’t they sort out where the ball will be thrown, as they walked to the lineout?

Perenara had a game he would rather forget and knocked the ball on three times. Then there was poor passing: Lam would have scored a record-equalling 15th try if hadn’t had to slow down to catch a poor throw, and on the other side, late in the first spell, a pass went behind Milner-Skudder with the line beckoning.

There’s now a three week break while we watch the All Blacks and the French do battle, so what can the Hurricanes do to ensure they make the Super Rugby finals in July?

They need to sit down and focus on a video of last night’s game, note the skills the need to hone and reflect on how they were out-played by a smarter team.





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