The Hurricanes scored two tries in the first five minutes, but then shifted the gear to neutral before securing the bonus point 29-5 win with just three minutes to go in a Vodacom Super 14 match that had the appeal of a Barry Manilow concert.
The worst thing that could have happened was the Canes being up 14 points with their first two movements of the match, one from first phase and the other on the counter attack. In the construction of the second try they lost Conrad Smith with a broken leg and their backs lost all direction when given limited attacking opportunities.
The Force, lacking finishers and class players to create five pointers, dominated everything. They won the penalty count 15 to 3, won the lineouts 29-12, spent 27 minutes in the Canes 22 as opposed to nine minutes in their own, took the ruck count 90 to 40 and made only a third of the tackles in the match. They also enjoyed 70 percent territory and 61 percent possession, but they too had to wait until the last minute of the game to enjoy any try-scoring fortune when Scott Staniforth ran onto a kick through.
And when they did score it came as a surprise, such was their inability to break down the Canes defence. The Canes, one of the tournament favourites, fire with cannons. The boys from Perth came armed with pea-shooters, so it really did not matter how many shots they were going to fire. There was never going to be any bodily harm done to the home team.
The Canes, inspired by Ma’a Nonu, finally got the bonus point try but they did not deserve it. Their tight five rumbled with more of a hiss than a roar, Collins, Masoe and So’oialo played as individuals and not a unit, the halfbacks of Weepu and Gopperth were ordinary and it needed Nonu to break the shackles of boredom in the last five minutes to spark a 70 metre flurry that ended with Jason Eaton crossing for his second try.
The Canes will point to five league points to counter criticism of their performance, but they know it is because of this type of performance that they never get taken seriously as champions. Contenders, yes, but champions, no.
Tries: Andrew Hore (2 mins), Lome Fa’atau (4 mins), Jason Easton (31 mins, 77 mins)
Convs: Jimmy Gopperth (3 mins, 5 mins, 78 mins)
Pens: Gopperth (29 mins)
Tries: Scott Staniforth (80 mins)