The anticipation and commencement of the British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand, has perhaps overshadowed what may be the game of the year.
The Blues upset victory over the British and Irish Lions has caused a frenzy. The New Zealand public is now focused on the Crusaders match against the Lions this Saturday. The anticipation has overshadowed all other events, including possibly the game of the season.
The defending Super Rugby champions, the Hurricanes came up against their old foe, the Chiefs. Held in front of 26,000 people at Westpac Stadium, the game didn’t disappoint. The match had plenty of twists and turns, which had fans fixated on their television screens. The game went to the wire, with the away side prevailing 17 to 14.
The first 20 minutes, in particular, went exactly to plan. Their ability to retain possession while spreading the ball wide is exactly what coach Chris Boyd would’ve planned. This style of play, that we have all come to admire, led to the Vaea Fifita try in the 6th minute. However, the Hurricanes couldn’t replicate this form throughout the duration of the contest. Despite showing glimpses of it, they became exposed.
It was also good to see the kicking game of Jordie Barrett on show. He didn’t have to kick much, but his two kicks were by no means easy. Seeing that he was the one kicking rather than brother Beauden, it can be fair to presume that Jordie is admired by the All Black selectors for this skill. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him selected against Samoa at fullback, while also taking ownership of the kicking duties.
The normal high ball tactic wasn’t executed as it normally is each week. Wingers Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder were non-existent against the vastly skilled Chiefs back three in this area of the game. Despite positives from the Hurricanes back three in other facets of the game, they will all surely be disappointed with their threat under the high ball. With the Hurricanes back three all heading off to representative rugby, expect a big lift from them when they return against the Crusaders on July 15th.
The leadership was below the normally impeccable level. Skipper TJ Perenara lost his patience on multiple occasions, which is both unlike him and not up to the standard of any captain. In what was a challenging contest, it would’ve been beneficial for the Hurricanes if All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea and Centurion Julian Savea had used their experience to calm their team in the dying minutes.
The Hurricanes tight five will once again come under scrutiny due to their performance on Friday night. Their scrums and line outs failed when success was needed. The Hurricanes scrum was dominated by the Chiefs, including a scrum when Chiefs lock Michael Allardice was sin-binned. For a team of their calibre, this simply isn’t acceptable. If things don’t improve, expect big changes throughout the offseason. It is key to note that despite a poor tight five, two key players in Dane Coles and Reggie Goodes are missing.
Despite relentless attacking from the ever dangerous Hurricanes, the Chiefs managed to contain them. The line speed was the key to executing this strategy. The main man targeted was newly named All Black, Ngani Laumape. He is normally a menace, a force which can’t be contained. Not against the Chiefs though. Both Charlie Ngatai and Anton Lienert-Brown rushed the 103-kilogram inside centre, so he couldn’t create chances. This created havoc within the Hurricanes setup, as it caused issues going forward.
Discipline, despite not being terrible, was poor. They only gave away six penalties but that is normally too many against a side like the Hurricanes. The yellow card to Michael Allardice highlighted how much of an off night this was for the Chiefs in this area of the game. They normally are better than this, so will hope to lift against the Brumbies in their next hit out on July 15th.
Aaron Cruden’s injury was arguably the worst thing to come out of the Chiefs performance in Wellington. In a game that was close to perfect from the Hamilton-based franchise, Cruden’s injury will prove to be the worst outcome. However, a minor medial ligament injury may cause the national squad more headaches than the Chiefs. He will probably now miss part, if not all, of the Lions series.
A great game played between two fierce rivals. The Chiefs will most likely take the 2nd New Zealand place into the finals after this result, which will result in a probable trip to Canberra. The ‘Canes will be disappointed, and rightly so, but are dangerous regardless of who or where they play.
Author: Finn Morton
To say I’m obsessed with sport is an understatement. It was due to this passion that I realised a career in sports journalism was the way to go. I’m looking to spread my passion for sport whilst gaining some valuable experience.