The Crusaders 33-16 win over the Hurricanes sealed a second straight loss for the club, after losing at home to the Blues in the first round.
Following the 0-2 start, the front five of the Hurricanes has come under the spotlight, criticised for not being up to scratch or reaching the quality of some of the other teams such as the Blues and the Crusaders.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod about the game, former Blues hooker James Parsons went to bat for the beleaguered Hurricanes’ pack, highlighting that the problems were rather technical rather than having inadequate personnel.
“I think it is unfair in that sense, I think the Crusaders were clinical and taking advantage of the ill-discipline,” he said.
“I don’t think it is a skillset thing, or a physical thing, or a ‘Hurricanes forward pack versus Crusaders forward pack’ thing.”
“I’ll give you an example, just after halftime it is the Hurricanes’ scrum feed and they get done for leaning in, I think Fraser Armstrong and it is a free kick. From that, it becomes Crusaders put in, and from that they go blind side, Richie Mo’unga, in the wet pins the corner.
“Puts the pressure straight back onto the Hurricanes. From there, the overthrow happens and Codie Taylor scores.
“So you can easily say the tight five is not ‘manning up’ or the tight five is not doing their job, well it’s not actually about the prowess or the nature of the beast, it’s actually just a technical thing.”
Parsons pointed out the accolades of the players in the Hurricanes tight five, with two All Blacks and a further squad member in the front row stocks who were on the field against the Crusaders.
“Tyrel Lomax is an All Black, Asafo Aumua is an All Black, Ricky Riccitelli was in the All Blacks squad, he travelled over.
“Fraser Armstrong has built a career, a long career in Mitre 10 Cup and Super Rugby. Xavier Numia has been exceptional, he’s another ‘Asafo Aumua’ explosive, great off-the-bench player.
“Scott Scrafton is there, James Blackwell and Isaia Walker-Leawere who has done great things at Hawkes Bay and Wellington over the years.
“They’ve got the tight five there, and their loosies speak for themselves. I don’t think it’s a cattle thing.”
“It’s just about winning those small moments that the Crusaders are so good at and ruthless at taking advantage of.
“Yellow cards. Go back to Tony Brown saying we didn’t get reward for the yellow cards (a week earlier). Well, there’s the Crusaders, they get a yellow card advantage and they score 21 points.
“That’s not a cattle thing, it’s the team’s ruthless nature. They expose you.”
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall, who came on the field the final half an hour of the match, highlighted that the continuity of the squad for a number of years affords the Crusaders an advantage other young teams don’t have.
“When you’ve got the same guys that are on the same page, consistently for the full eighty minutes, you aren’t always going to get it right but nine times out of 10, if you know your own role and what you are doing, it leads to moments like that.”
Hall explained that the Crusaders group doesn’t even need to talk about decisions on the field, they usually are all thinking the same thing in the moments where quick thinking is required.
“We have been pretty fortunate the last four or five years we have had the same cattle. Those little game management moments where it is a quick look, or a quick understanding of how someone plays or what they are thinking.
“Most of the time, we are pretty lucky, we know exactly what we are thinking and we don’t even need to talk about it.”
“You talk about the Blues, who have kinda formed that same continuity, having the same players there for four or five years. It’s understanding being in those positions time and time again, you get confidence out of that.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now