The Hurricanes qualified for the semi-finals of the Vodacom Super 14, but on the evidence of their 26-22 win against the Rubble Reds they won’t be a finalist.
Once again the Canes showed their limitations as championship material, botching good field position with an inordinate amount of poor options and an obsession with the kick through to break down the flat-lying Reds defence.
An enterprising opening three minutes was as fluent as it got for the home team in what is likely to be their last home game of the season. The Canes travel to Sydney next weekend and would have to do something special to get the win and set themselves up for a home semi-final. Defeat in Sydney will see them have to travel again for a play-off.
The Canes, often a side that produces so much flash in the competition’s history without the necessary reward, have been the opposite this season. Fortunate has been their best friend and shocking option taking has been their greatest enemy. The Canes led 13-8 at halftime, but only sealed the win after the hooter when replacement flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth kicked a penalty. With better decision-making they could have scored five tries instead of the two.
They had possession. They had field position, but they certainly did not have the rugby intelligence on the night to score the tries.
Everyone kicked, from number 6 to 15, and for the frustrated home fans the kicks were invariably poor ones.
The Reds deservedly outscored the Canes by three tries to two and their pack physically dominated the Canes in the second half. The Canes relied on the presence of Jerry Collins and Chris Masoe for go forward, while Tana Umaga and Ma’a Nonu were brutal and predictable in the midfield. There was no fluency between the two and Nonu looks more cumbersome with each match. What happened the man’s side-step and his willingness to run around people? These days he just crashes it up but rarely breaks more than one tackle.
Collins was inspirational and probably the difference in the contest, although Reds opensider David Croft gutsed it out and showed character.
Indeed, the entire Reds side showed heart to come close to victory after the 36-nil shutout against the Brumbies a week ago.
The Canes did enough to win, but it was a performance that would not have interested the bookmakers when it comes to predicting the winners of the inaugural Super 14.
Tries: Jason Eaton (22nd min), Tana Umaga (56th min)
Convs: David Holwell (22nd min), Jimmy Gopperth (56th min)
Pens: Holwell (15 min, 40th min, 51 min), Gopperth (80th min)
Tries: Berrick Barnes (35th min), David Croft (46th min), John Roe (67th min)
Convs:Barnes (46th min, 68th min)
Pens: Barnes (5th min)