On a perfect Autumns evening, the scene was set for a return to the provinces. The reigning Super Rugby champion Hurricanes had taken their Round Nine match out to the regional heartland of Napier–Hurricanes v Brumbies–and the crowds showed up in full.
13,000 strong, they came to be entertained, and left wholly entertained. And while the game had two massive changes in scoreline, their team started well and ended even better. A cracking 80 minutes that produced 11 tries in total.
The heroes were the regulars; Beauden Barrett and his amazing younger brother Jordie, try scoring machine Vince Aso and the whole ‘Canes team that looked to avenge one of two poor performances in 2016. Tonight, coach Chris Boyd said they had removed those demons through a powerful second 40 minute effort.
Hurricanes 56 – Tries: Vince Aso (3), Callum Gibbins (2), Cory Jane, Mark Abbott, Ngani Laumape; Conversions: Jordie Barrett (7), Otere Black
Brumbies 21 – Tries: Tevita Kuridrani, Sam Carter, Joe Powell; Con: Wharenui Hawera (3)
Brilliant Night in Napier for Hurricanes v Brumbies
If they performed a good exit plan last weekend against the Blues, then this round it was a severe case of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. Good play from both sides to open with kept fans waiting for their usual flashes of brilliance–but we sensed it was coming. The season has panned out fantastically, as the ‘Canes now top the standards they set in 2016.
And in the analysis, it is here where you can understand where their true strengths are. Topping 369 points scored, they have a difference of 217. By Sunday, only if the Stormers or Lions can score 110 points, and concede zero, could they even begin to compare. And in beating the Brumbies by 35 points, it grabs the monkey that was on their back (from the 52-10 loss in Canberra last year) and backslams him to the mat.
“Eight converted tries is a pretty satisfying haul against the Brumbies.”
Chris Boyd mentioned the result from 2016 a lot during the week, and given a chance to undo that failing will feel very good. And while there was a ten minute period where he said they let themselves down before halftime, the side repaired the damage immediately on the restart.
“By the end of the game, there was one team still running and the other was struggling a bit. I don’t know what the possession and territory stats were in the second half, but I think they would be pretty overwhelming,” and they certainly were.
74% 2H possession tells the Hurricanes' story.
Frankly, I'm surprised the Brumbies have managed 26%…#HURvBRU
— Brett McKay (@BMcSport) April 21, 2017
Opening Quarter an Example of Hurricanes Superiority
It was a match which swung in momentum. Good field position helped by some slick passing was the lead-up to the first Hurricanes attacking play. It put the home team within five meters, but they were repelled. When a clearing kick by the Brumbies was not put over the sideline, that was enough to signal danger.
On the counter attack, Barrett palmed the ball off to Vince Aso. He was direct, and charged up from 40 meters out to break open the Brumbies defence. Brilliance began early for the ‘Canes in Napier, and soon Cory Jane didn’t want to miss out on the action, so he was involved with his fabulous aerial skills. The chip over the line is gaining favour, and with pinpoint execution, the chip had Jane bounding above Aidan Toua to score. Great to see Cory back at the Canes, and he links well with Jordie Barrett in return meters.
But the old saying “anything you can do, I can do better” resounded. Right from the kick restart, Henry Speight showed his strength. Busting up the midfield, he scythed a path through the Hurricanes and popped a long kick. Inside the ‘yellow zone’ and was a fine opportunity. Bombarding the line, repeated charges at the defense paid off when skipper Sam Carter made his way over.
It was a very positive attitude, not something the crowd or rugby commentators expected. Yet Chris Boyd had warned his team to be wary of the Brumbies class. “This Brumbies team is probably better in that department than the Blues, so we need to be on our game.
“We were a little bit impatient in that first half”.
Brumbies Hitback Stuns Hurricanes Before Halftime
Again, a repeat of the same kick-return practice reaped more rewards for the visitors. Speight took the ball, and Aidan You a spread it at speed which showed a positive attitude. He shifted the ball, and Rory Arnold ran hard. He passed to Kuridrani who shipped it to Scott Fardy. They then spread the ball out to the improving Joe Powell. The replacement halfback [in for the injured Tomas Cubelli] was quick to scoot out, and evaded tackles to score. A stunning return as you will see below, that made the score blow out to 14-21.
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) April 21, 2017
With the crowd muted, by the closing of the first half, each side had learned how to suffocate the other, and only a late covering tackle was able to stop the Canes from equaling the scores. Pressure had swung well into the Brumbies advantage. A fine effort, which would put the onus on the home side to bounce back.
With the words of the coaching team in their ears, the Hurricanes went about showing more patience. Six minutes in fact, was all the wait that fans had to endure before that more considered approach paid off. That change back in ‘Canes favour was helped almost entirely by the yellow card to Hawera. His slowing of the ball was intentional, and it allowed for a man advantage. After a typical Beauden break, the territory led to Vice Aso collecting his second.
Key Period Would Sink Brumbies Hopes
As Chris Boyd told this reporter last week, key moments win games. A telling one was effected by Cory Jane. The senior figure used his years of experience to put pressure on Aidan Toua. He was caught near the sideline and it cost him. With the lineout possession, a brilliant set move saw Vince Aso collect his third–a perfect night for the top try scorer in all Super Rugby.
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) April 21, 2017
From there on in, it was one way traffic. The Brumbies would often hold the ball, going into the ‘Canes half, but on multiple occasions, the ball swung towards a Hurricanes player who knew the direction toward the line. Abbott, Laumape and Gibbons twice, would all score.
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi would deputize for TJ Perenara tonight, and he would receive praise by his head coach. “He hasn’t had a lot of football, and we’re pretty exposed to TJ so we needed to give him some minutes. I was really pleased for Triple T.”
The replacements will all be key going forward, but with a bye to enjoy next, it will make John Plumtree and Boyd undobtedly happy to walk away with the points. The major disappointment was that Blade Thompson; who had returned to full speed, was taken again to a shoulder injury. In a glib assessment, the player only passed a single word comment when asked how the shoulder was. “It’s gone,” was all he had to say.
Brumbies Will Be Seriously Concerned with Losing Pattern
In Super Rugby Round Nine, the forecast appeared to be that the Brumbies might trouble the Hurricanes. Their placing at the top of the Australian conference should have provided a base of confidence, but they seem to be regressing. All the turmoil in Australia is ‘pulling them downward’ and Stephen Larkham must repair their failings.
To give away so many points. even his opposing head coach had sympathy for him. “I think no team likes to concede that many points in one half,” but some of those points were top class. The execution of some of the flat kicks was outstanding. Beauden in particular gets the credit, but the players catching those balls must feel extremely confident that their team mate can execute those plays.
So on a night when the province was entertained, when a minute was taken to show respect for the fallen soldiers, fans can also take a minute to salute the quality in execution that the Hurricanes brand of rugby is producing.
“Main photo credit”