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Relief for Hurricanes: 'We've been on the wrong end of a few of those'

By Tom Vinicombe
Ardie Savea. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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While Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland can’t quite put his finger on why his side are struggling to find their feet early in their Super Rugby Pacific matches this year, he’s pleased that they’re not giving in just because the chips are down.

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In three matches on the trot now – including their final pre-season match with the Crusaders – the Hurricanes have found themselves staring down the barrel of a big defeat but have rallied late to put their opposition under immense pressure.

While they didn’t quite do enough to get the win last weekend against the Crusaders, few would have expected the game to end with just a 10-point margin given the Hurricanes were down 42-18 with eight minutes left to play.

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They faced a similar deficit on Saturday night, down 32-14 with 12 minutes left on the clock – but this time their late flourish was enough to get them over the line.

Salesi Rayasi (twice) and Ardie Savea scored tries in the final quarter, with Savea’s coming just seconds before the final buzzer, to record an at one point unfathomable 33-32 victory.

 

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While Holland would no doubt prefer to see his side dominate matches, any win’s a success in the head coach’s books.

“It’s satisfying. My heart’s alright,” Holland said after the game. “It’s good, we got up. We’ve been on the wrong end of a few of those and to play some really awesome rugby in that last part of the game shows a lot of character so it’s satisfying.”

Holland suggested that all that was needed for the Hurricanes to start building some dominance was to get their hands on the ball – which was easier said than done in the early stages of the match. Once the Hurricanes reserves entered the game, however, the picture started to change.

“I’m not sure what it means [that the Hurricanes again struggled to begin with before coming back into the game],” Holland said. “It obviously means we’ve got good character and we’re going to fight to the end and the bench are making great impact, as they did tonight. They were awesome when they came on, provided that real power around what we expect and to lift the tempo of the game, which we tried to do from minute one, which we weren’t able to until they came on. That’s awesome.”

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The Blues dominated both possession and territory for the first 60 minutes of the match and the Hurricanes had missed over 30 tackles by the start of the fourth quarter. It was only one-off tries that kept the Hurricanes in the game but Holland was confident that with a bit of extra ball, his side would be able to get themselves on the front foot – and that was the simple message at halftime.

“The Blues played well but they seemed to win every little bit of possession that was up for grabs,” Holland said. “They stole a bit of set-piece ball off us. Every kick that went in the air, they won it. So to play without the ball against the Blues for long periods, you’re gonna miss tackles, that’s the reality of it.

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“We talked at halftime around making sure that we held onto the ball and tried to get a bit of belief that the minute we held onto the ball, they’d get tired. That’s sort of what eventuated really in the last little bit. We held onto possession more and found the holes which we weren’t able to early on.”

The final score won’t trick the second-year head coach into thinking all is sunshine and roses in Hurricanes country, however.

“There’s things we need to fix up,” he said. “We need to be better around how we hold onto possession earlier on, how we slow teams’ ball down so they don’t go quick ruck to quick ruck to quick ruck. And obviously we need to make sure we gain possession and can hold onto it.

“So there’s lot of things we’ll worry about tomorrow but to be honest, tonight I’m not worried about them. We’ll soak up the fact that we’ve had three weeks away, the boys have connected really well, we’ve worked hard for each other and while it wasn’t pretty, we got a good result.”

The Hurricanes are set to take on the winless Highlanders in Wellington next weekend and currently sit seventh on the overall Super Rugby Pacific ladder.

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