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Brumbies vs Hurricanes: Former NZ U20 rep stars for Brumbies

By Ned Lester
Tamati Tua of the Brumbies. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The Brumbies have ended the Hurricanes’ winning streak in a performance that saw the Wellingtonians beaten in some key areas they’ve been dominant in so far in 2024.

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The hosts had no interest in waiting for the game to get going to find their feet in the contest, instead coming out of the gates firing, clearly motivated by last week’s 46-7 demotion at the hands of the Blues in Auckland.

The Hurricanes on the other hand lacked energy and made uncharacteristic errors, although still held a significant upper hand in areas we’ve come to expect dominance from them.

Here are five takeaways from the contest.

The Brumbies set the tone and the Hurricanes obliged

There’s been no team more physically imposing in phase play than the Hurricanes this season, with the entire Wellington forward pack capable of winning the contact and getting over the gain line.

The Brumbies however flipped that script, winning the collision area early and forcing the Hurricanes onto the back foot.

Players who have been powerful on both sides of the ball were overwhelmed by an efficient, organised and hungry Brumbies pack full of intent.

Rob Valetini was immense, as were Rory Scott and Tamati Tua, rounding out the three leading ball-carriers in the contest by a clear margin.

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Player Carries

1
Rob Valetini
27
2
Rory Scott
19
3
Tamati Tua
16

The Brumbies finished the game with 63 per cent possession and forced the Hurricanes to make nearly double the number of tackles, racking up 300 post-contact metres; over double their opponents’ tally.

The Brumbies out-muscled the Hurricanes consistently in phase play, something no other team has done this season. The Canes will adjust their height in the tackle for the Waratahs game, the Sydneysiders drew the short straw being the next team to face the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes’ scrum doesn’t care

With momentum very much in favour of the Brumbies, the Hurricanes’ scrum silenced the crowd at GIO Stadium.

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If it wasn’t for the visitors being able to piggyback scrum penalties up the field, who knows what the scoreline in this game would’ve been.

Allan Alaalatoa returned from injury just in time to experience the best front row in the competition in person and was duly penalised, adding to Xavier Numia’s already compelling case for All Blacks selection.

The Hurricanes enjoyed another game with 100 per cent scrum success and the fruits of that labour was evident, as was the Brumbies’ labour at lineout time.

The Australian heavyweights typically excel at lineout time but the introduction of Charlie Cale to the starting unit has only elevated that, with the No. 8’s explosive ability to get off the ground and steal ball continuing to make life hell for opposition.

The lineout would have been a big focus after the loss to the Blues, and Stephen Larkham will be a very happy coach seeing the bounce back.

This Brumbies midfield has it all

Second five-eighth Tamati Tua started this game with a bang and had his way against an All Black star in Jordie Barrett. The big midfielder’s pace proved too much for the Hurricanes’ defence as the 26-year-old ran hard lines that splintered the defensive line.

Unfortunately for Joe Schmidt, Tua is a born and raised Kiwi with no apparent ties to Australia to make him eligible for the Wallabies.

The chemistry between Tua and centre Len Ikitau may have been a compelling option for the new Wallabies boss, given Ikitau’s proven international class.

With both players in their mid-20s, this is a combination with a bright future. However, with Tua’s form, it will be interesting to see whether he stays in Australia or backs himself to be in contention for higher honours back home.

Tua has played three games for the Blues and represents Northland in the NPC, having played in the New Zealand U20s in 2017, the last time New Zealand won the world U20 champs.

Tua signed with the Brumbies in 2023, following a standout season with Northland. That means he wouldn’t be eligible for the Wallabies until 2028, when he’s 31.

Injuries are now hurting the Hurricanes

Yes, this team has incredible depth. For a player like Cam Roigard to go down and a player like TJ Perenara to come into the starting XV, that is a luxury of all luxuries.

When Asafo Aumua went down in Fiji, it looked as if the Hurricanes, and All Blacks for that matter, would be without their star hooker for the remainder of 2024. It may well eventuate that the Hurricanes will have to complete their title run without the All Black bruiser’s services, but expect to see Aumua in action for Scott Robertson later in the year.

Aumua’s understudy, James O’Reilly, has been in quality form in 2024, performing his core roles well. As mentioned, the scrum was strong throughout this game and while the lineout struggled, O’Reilly’s throwing was rarely to blame. His major fault was missing the tackle on Tua, leading to the Brumbies try.

However, the hooker’s participation in the contest only lasted 26 minutes, leading to extended minutes for 21-year-old Raymond Tuputupu. The recent New Zealand U20 product was thrown in the deep end in this clash and played admirably, being active on defence although not all that accurate, and the main issue with his lineout throws was timing and throwing harder than his teammates expected, leading to fumbles.

But the main issue for the Hurricanes was the lack of Aumua’s X-factor. In a game where the collision area was hard won and not going the Canes’ way, Aumua’s immense strength and game-breaking physicality could have been a real difference maker.

A weekly reminder: Ruben Love is really good

We’ve seen a lot from Ruben Love this season and this game again proved his talent is international ready.

There were linebreaks and good field positioning when patrolling the backfield, but one particular challenge that the Brumbies threw – or rather kicked – Love’s way was a flurry of contestable bombs. While the 22-year-old isn’t the shortest fullback, he isn’t the tallest either, potentially making life difficult when competing in the air.

However, Love’s explosiveness and fearlessness saw him claim all kicks that came his way and consistently threaten upon landing.

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