RYAN VREDE reports on a 33-12 victory for the Hurricanes over the Waratahs who will rue an imprecise showing.
Heavy showers pre-match and a steady stream of the stuff throughout the contest ensured this was going to be a scrappy affair. The Canes have of course developed the pragmatic side of their game well under coach Mark Hammett, and while they aren’t a refined side in this regard, their game breaking ability when presented with opportunities in general play and broken field compensated for what they lacked here.
The Tahs will lament their lack of cutting edge in scoring positions. On numerous occasions they drove into the Canes’ 22m only to take poor options or execute the correct ones poorly. The Canes aren’t exempt from criticism in this regard, but they always gave you the sense that they were more capable of crossing the whitewash when they needed to.
Naturally handling was a perilous task and as a result the match had little flow or tempo to speak of. Discipline also suffered, particularly at the breakdown, where contesters and cleaners alike struggled to keep their footing. Berrick Barnes and Beauden Barrett traded penalties for 30 minutes before the Canes showed the clinical finishing that accounts for them leading the tournament in tries scored – Julian Savea rounding off a backline move. Barrett converted from the touchline for a 13-9 half-time lead.
Barnes cut the deficit to one shortly after the restart, but the Tahs’ wastefulness persisted, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Dave Dennis coughing up the ball in good positions within two minutes of each other. Their coaching staff must have been pulling their hair out. They had bossed territory and possession and should have been ahead.
Some credit must go to the Canes’ defence , which has let them down at critical times this season. Given how they were pinned in their territory, their primary challenges were the sustainability of that defensive showing and finding a means of alleviating that pressure by retaining possession for an extended period in Tahs territory.
They did just that, absorbing another wave of attack before making their way into the Tahs’ 22m and finishing through Motu Matu’u after some sublime ball skills in the build up. Two chances, two scores. The Tahs looked deflated but they had only themselves to blame for their predicament. Shortly thereafter the Canes effectively sealed the result when a long pass found Conrad Smith unmarked in a wide channel.
The four-try bonus point the Canes so desperately needed came in the final move of the match and keeps them in the hunt for a play-off spot. The Tahs’ ambitions in this regard have long been over and this performance confirms why.