Returning home after their enthralling victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend, the Hurricanes were seeking to string two wins together when they took on the hard-working Highlanders at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Sunday.
Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland made a number of changes to his starting XV with Asafo Aumua coming in for Dane Coles who has sustained a calf injury. The inexhaustible Reed Prinsep earned a rest allowing Devan Flanders to start in the back row while Murphy Taramai came onto the bench.
The Hurricanes played some wonderful phases and did enough to earn the win 17-11 but left a few points out there through unforced errors. They are not yet playing with the clarity and consistency to challenge the Blues and Crusaders, but a win is a win.
How the Hurricanes rated:
1. Ben May – 7
Impressed with his line-speed and his nous around the breakdown but was caught drifting in the defensive line and was exploited similar to last week, except the Highlanders could not turn that error into points. Had some strong runs in attack and overall put in a good shift this afternoon.
2. Asafo Aumua – 7.5
Did what he does well – hit hard in defence. Had the odd defensive error but was a player the Highlanders weren’t keen on running at. This bloke should get finders fees for Dunedin chiropractor’s appointments next week. Had some commanding runs but would like to see him increase his second efforts if he is going to take his game to the next level.
3. Tyrel Lomax – 6.5
Put in a mixed performance making errors in interpreting the offside law at the ruck and was under some pressure in the scrum. Yet he kept at it and cleaned out Highlanders skipper Ash Dixon to open the door for TJ Perenara to run into allowing the scrum half to score.
4. James Blackwell – 7
Doesn’t know how to have a bad game and did what he always does. Worked hard. Could he be an absolute ‘smokey’ for the All Blacks squad?
5. Scott Scrafton – 6.5
An industrious performance and featured when stealing a Highlanders lineout off a penalty.
6. Devan Flanders – 6
Has got some game about him and scored a try to finish off some hard work done by his teammates. I don’t like his single-handed passing and it cost the Hurricanes a certain try when one went to the feet of Van Wyk, who was good enough to catch but his pass to Barrett was poor. The genesis of this bombed try was Flanders lacklustre pass.
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi – 6/10
A mixed performance by him. Hard on the ball, hard with the ball. Gave away a few penalties that he must curb if he is going to take his game to the next level. Had a tendency to fall off a tackle but exhausted himself for the cause.
8. Ardie Savea – 6.5/10
Ran far too laterally today. Whilst looked for involvement his match wasn’t lacking in intent, but more so intelligence and execution. He can play much better.
9. TJ Perenara [C] – 7/10
Outplayed Aaron Smith today and led his team around the park well. Missed the odd tackle but was effective in attack.
10. Fletcher Smith – 6/10
Had some nice moments and appears to read the game well but his defence isn’t what it needs to be if he is going to be a Super Rugby player based on todays effort.
11 Ben Lam – 6.5/10
One his better performances today. Looked threatening with the ball in hand and looked less anxious and appeared to have a little more clarity about how he was applying himself. If the Canes are to make a run towards the end of the season, Lam needs to deliver.
12. Ngani Laumape – 7.5/10
Made some wonderful metres up the middle but still had the odd run where he must have asked himself what the heck he was doing as he was all over the place. Plays his best rugby hitting space and hitting it straight, and shouldn’t look beyond that. Fronted up in defence and was up for it today.
13. Vince Aso – 7/10
A credible return and secured his side a couple of turnovers. Worked well with his centre partner and was clearly the dominant centre on the park.
14. Kobus van Wyk – 7/10
Scored a nice try but I was impressed with his lateral vision to identify space on the inside and isn’t conned when shown the sideline by the defence. Needs to work on his body height when over the ball but he is a competitor and put in a descent shift this afternoon.
15. Jordie Barrett – 7/10
The most dangerous player in the Hurricanes’ arsenal but needs to start showing that more intelligently and more consistently. His punch into the attack line off a Scott Scrafton off load that led to a try was sublime. Later he ran a beautiful line to nearly offload to Fletcher Smith. He knows what to do and where to be, but needs to do it more often.
16. Ricky Riccitelli – 5/10
On in the 68th minute. Did his job.
17. Pouri Rakete-Stones – 5.5/10
On in the 65th minute and looked to impose himself in defence. Brought some energy.
18. Alex Fidow – 5/10
On in the 68th minute. Did his job.
19. Vaea Fifita – 5.5/10
On in the 53rd minute. Looked to play more directly and looked to be physical but his execution wasn’t up to standard.
20. Murphy Taramai – 6/10
On in the 75th minute and had a wonderful mid field charge. Good signs.
21. Jamie Booth – 5/10
On in the 65th minute. Did his job, was little scrappy at the base.
22. Billy Proctor – 5/10
On in the 73rd minute. Did his job.
23. Wes Goosen – 6/10
On in the 68th minute and made a crucial tackle on Tu’u about 10 meters out.
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