Chris Boyd not entirely impressed in Canes victory at Eden Park

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A cool and observant Hurricanes head coach was less than impressed by his team’s away win, when spoken to by Last Word on Rugby. Still asking his side to produce an 80 minute performance, Chris Boyd was not entirely impressed in his Canes victory at Eden Park last night.

“We were disappointed in the first half, obviously [leading 8-14] probably in the end, the guys with numbers 16 to 23 on their backs probably made the difference. Fresh legs,” was the verdict from Boyd post-match.

He was referring to the introduction of TJ Perenara off the bench. Returning from injury, in replacing Finlay Christie, the All Black put his mark down when the game required it. And while the opening 40 minutes produced two converted tries, it was not the ’80 minute performance’ that Boyd had demanded.

Chris Boyd unimpressed in Canes victory at Eden Park

“I thought the way the game was, I think we needed a bit of a spark. He instantly gave us that. His energy, his quickness, and the way he organizes other people is important to us,” was the assessment of the impact off the bench. Perenara is a class ahead of his contemporaries; Aaron Smith aside. He outshone both Christie, and his opposite Augustine Pulu.

Boyd was happier with the second half. And with the likes of Perenara and Jordie Barrett introduced, the continuity improved and tempo rose. Behind 15-14, it was a call by the coaches to correct some misdirection. And the impetus that Perenara brought, that almost instantly resulted in pressure being applied down the left hand touchline. Ardie Savea running hard, feeds Nehe Milner-Skudder for the turning moment in the match.

Building the lead to 15-28, it was balanced and a decision to kick a penalty in the 70th minute was strategic. “We were at that stage thinking whether we would kick for the corner, or take the penalty. We thought there was enough time, if we went out to a 16 point lead, then we’d still have seven to eight minutes to get that bonus point in.

“At the end of the day, that’s the one part of the season that has been disappointing. We’ve generally accumulated a lot of bonus points, but we haven’t done that this year. In 2016, in the last week of competition, we jumped from 7th to 1st due to our bonus points [after defeating the Crusaders by three tries].”

And when the side were asked to go hunting for that BP last night, the pure energy of the ‘Canes would have impressed fans. They pushed, applied defensive pressure and gained territorial position. Good ball handling – which wasn’t a positive over the match – ended with Jordie Barrett receiving a cross-field kick from Ngani Laumape. Promoted to Matt Proctor, who secured the 15-36 victory.

Gareth Evans receives praise from Coach and Captain

“He’s good yeah. Gareth’s been good for us. He’s got a really good understanding of defensive lineouts – you saw him the ball he pinched, that was really crucial”. Boyd was talking about an athletic leap (below) that stole an Blues lineout, with the resulting play leading to a try to Sam Louisi.

Asked what Gareth Evans brings to the Hurricanes, Boyd was glowing. “Gareth’s a smart footballer. He’s got a good balance in his attack and defence,” and one highlight of the first half was the number eight’s quick thinking. Given a short-arm penalty, Evans instantly reacted when only meters from the line to score (very much in the mold of a Zinzan Brook).

Brad Shields also commended Evans. The loose trio combination seems to have great balance. Savea being the fetcher, Shields the tackling machine and Evans showing more range, and his ability to bolt from the base of the scrum. A good aquisition from the Highlanders in 2017.

Boyd aware that his full squad will need to perform.

Even if Boyd was unimpressed by much of the match play, he can see men who will be critical to his sides success. Gareth Evans, Beauden Barrett, Ricky Riccitelli [try scorer] and Nehe Milner-Skudder. The outside back; who also scored a try, is returning after a long break.

“He’s just slowly coming back to form. It’s nice with Julian, Ben, Jordie and Nehe to be able to choose between them. It’s a great problem to have.”

And the Hurricanes have been fortunate not to be hit as hard with injuries as others. In comparison to the Blues, or the Chiefs, they have had the reliance on key men. And none more so, than Brad Shields. But with the news that Shields is now destined to join the England Rugby squad in South Africa after the Week 16 fixture, the one concern questioned by media, might be his ‘return timeline’.

“If he is involved in the last test in Cape Town, he probably won’t get back until Tuesday. We play the Brumbies in Canberra, so I’ve already spoken to Brad and it would be highly unlikely that he would then play in that game.”

A distraction yes, but also an endorsement. Because all the while Brad Shields was overlooked by the All Blacks, he has been admired by others. Both for his on-the-field and off-field leadership. So Boyd is not surprised that others ‘coveted’ the blindside flanker.

“I’ve made no secret, that I think Brad’s a good enough player to have played in an All Blacks jersey. But the selectors didn’t come a knockin. So he has patriot-ality on the UK side [parents], and he’s made his decision,” was the conclusion of Chris Boyd.

Happy for the player, who Chris Boyd admires, and said honestly “he’d be the sort of guy you’d be happy that your daughter was marrying.”

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The Hurricanes currently sit first in the New Zealand conference, holding a game in hand over the leading Crusaders; who play the Waratahs in Christchurch at 5pm (NZT)

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