The Hurricanes cruised to a 34-11 bonus-point win over the sorry Stormers in Wellington.
Westpac Stadium witnessed another melee of mediocrity as the rudderless Stormers erred and spilled with frightening rhythm. It appears to be the only pattern of the Cape franchise at the moment, as the only aspect worse than their handling is their ball retention.
The Hurricanes were typically rabid at the breakdown, and the Stormers forwards were found wanting for intensity and accuracy yet again. Yet again, the Stormers have nobody to blame but themselves.
The visitors got off to the worse possible start with captain Jean de Villiers injured in the fourth minute. Replacement centre Dylan des Fountain produced a magic touch right away to get the Stormers on the board, two clever kicks resulting in a simple try.
Piri Weepu’s absence hardly affected the Canes as the halfback pairing of Alby Mathewson and Willie Ripia combined well. The Stormers’ defence were resilient initially, but the robust pick-and-goes and incisive running off the ball that characterise the Canes’ brand began to tell.
The elusive David Smith hit a great inside ball and offloaded to Mathewson. Scragged by the cover defence, the scrumhalf found Jeremy Thrush in support.
Peter Grant kicked poorly, blowing a couple of opportunities to score. He failed to convert Des Fountain’s try and a penalty attempt from a similar position. His in-field punting was hardly more accurate, a fact that was exacerbated by the poor showing of his forwards in the scrum and at the tackle point.
Grant made a few scything breaks, but as a unit, the Stormers’ backline stuttered. They never ran from depth, and the pass was often behind the receiving player. The Stormers’ wingers were decidedly awful with Wylie Human stood up by opposite number David Smith on a couple of occasions. What Sireli Naqelevuki has done to deserve a constant starting spot out wide is a mystery. Being physically big is an advantage, but his work-rate and aggression is sorely lacking.
Despite a dismal display at the lineout, the Canes continued to lay the platform. After wearing down the defence, Ma’a Nonu spun the ball to Tamati Ellision. The hosts went to a 17-8 lead at the break, and to be honest, that lead would have been greater had they finished better.
They rarely moved out of second gear, but they never had to. The Stormers’ attack proved easy to marshall, and when Grant was forced to kick, Corey Jane collected and offloaded to an unstoppable Nonu. The All Blacks’ centre picked up his second when he busted through some average defence, the score securing the win and the bonus point.
The loss is the fourth on the bounce for the sorry Stormers, and again they looked clueless on attack. They now face the reality of ending the Super 14 in the bottom seven, as it’ll take a miracle to win through in Dunedin next week.
The Canes will be delighted with the result, especially since their performance was far from clinical. Again, this reflects poorly on the Stormers, as an average Canes side were able to paddle them to the tune of 34-11.
By Jon Cardinelli