Chris Boyd summed it up as ‘the worst 40 minutes of football we’ve played in four years’ after the Hurricanes had just lost their third straight match, the first time under his watch that has happened.
‘I don’t think there is any excuse, we just gave away too many penalties, allowed them territory. They would just kick to the corner and drive and we didn’t deal with that particularly well,’ he said.
‘It was a tough day at the office.’
The side that was flying high on a ten-game winning streak and perched atop the New Zealand conference is now looking to the drawing board after last night’s 24-12 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra. They are guaranteed playoff qualification but now face pressure from the rising Chiefs for a home quarterfinal.
That could prove material given the impracticality of the Super Rugby seeding process, which sees the fourth (Hurricanes) and fifth (Chiefs) seeds placed against each other, despite both having more wins and competition points than the second and third seeds.
Home ground advantage in that match is important, given how tough it is to win on the road in Kiwi derbies. The Hurricanes three-game skid has, in part, been because of this element. A trip to Christchurch to face the Crusaders was a wet weather nightmare and a visit to Dunedin against the high-octane Highlanders was too tall of an ask on the fast surface of Forsyth Barr.
The team’s ten-game winning streak was built on home soil, as they put away the Crusaders, Highlanders and Chiefs in convincing fashion. In fact, the Hurricanes are undefeated at home this season going 7-0, while on the road they are 3-4.
‘I’m sure if we look at the attitude, skills and the decisions it will be a combination of those three things but we just have to find some fire again,’ Boyd suggested as reasons for the form slump.
The return of internationals Brad Shields, Beauden Barrett and Vaea Fifita next week should help, as well as a return to the familiarity of the Caketin for a clash against the Blues before a quarter-final preview against the Chiefs in Hamilton. That away derby will likely determine home ground advantage in the first edition of two back-to-back clashes against the Chiefs.
Captain TJ Perenara offered no excuses for the run of losses, but believes the side can improve by taking care of the ‘controllables’.
‘I just think we’re not playing great footy at the moment. We can control a lot of things out on the field that we aren’t doing well,” he said post-match.
That extends to off the field preparations, as Perenara proposed ‘stripping it back’ to how each individual, positional group and the team as a whole prepared during the week.
They won’t have long to find an answer as destiny calls for a do-or-die finals clash against another high-powered Kiwi team. Whether they play that at home or away will be a big factor in whether this Hurricanes team will challenge for another title.
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