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'Ridiculous he's behind a guy who seems past it': The unused weapon who could help turn around the Hurricanes' fortunes

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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There were few bright spots for the Hurricanes in Sunday’s 33-16 defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch, although a second half fightback led by an infusion of talent off the bench helped the visitors to a respectable final scoreline.

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After falling behind 26-6 at halftime following a Crusaders onslaught while captain Ardie Savea was yellow-carded, the afternoon quickly got worse when Codie Taylor scored off an errant line out throw to make it 33-6 early in the second half.

In desperate need of a turn around, it was substitute wing Salesi Rayasi who offered some spark to the Hurricanes attack and troubled the Crusaders with every touch.

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Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans

Rayasi clocked 58 metres on five carries in his 20-minute span and was involved in a number of breaks for his side. On his first touch, he went round Crusaders flanker Sione Havili and freed up Ngani Laumape for a line break back on the inside with a one-handed offload.

Catching a goal line dropout from Jordie Barrett, a step and spin by Rayasi discarded two Crusaders before a backhand flick offload sent Laumape away down the sideline again for a long break that finished in a try to Peter Umaga-Jensen.

His performance wasn’t perfect, a cold drop from the kickoff soured things moments later, but the eye-catching cameo was noted by viewers online, with fans asking why Rayasi had been sitting on the bench behind the recently-returned Julian Savea.

Savea’s high-profile return has led the Hurricanes to favour their former star man in the first two rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa instead of one of the form players of last year’s Mitre 10 Cup, where he scored 14 tries for Auckland.

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RugbyPass writer Mike Rehu graded Rayasi a 7/10 for the game, the second highest score for a Hurricanes player behind Jordie Barrett.

“On at 57 impressed straight away with some intent. However, it turned into a yo-yo outing for the talented wing with a couple of whoopsies,” he wrote.

“One thing you can’t deny is his pace and elusiveness. Surely worth a start.”

Rayasi debuted for the Hurricanes in 2019, but saw limited game time behind incumbent Ben Lam. However, despite the lack of Super Rugby game time, his form in the Mitre 10 Cup had many predicting bigger things to come.

Famed Irish writer Murray Kinsella wrote in November 2020 that “2021 will surely see him change that” after his “scintillating form” for Auckland.

He was one of many who were eager to see Rayasi in action before the current Super Rugby Aotearoa season had even kicked-off.

With two losses from their first two games, the Hurricanes get a chance to recalibrate with a bye in round three.

Changes, including a promotion into the starting side for Rayasi, could be in line after the rest as they face a must-win clash against the Chiefs, who are also winless after their first up game against the Highlanders, in Wellington on March 20.

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'Ridiculous he's behind a guy who seems past it': The unused weapon who could help turn around the Hurricanes' fortunes

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