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Where things went so wrong for the Hurricanes

By Tom Vinicombe
Josh Moorby. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The season had been tracking along quite nicely for the Hurricanes, who had booked two wins from their three matches to date, until they hit Mt Smart Stadium on Friday night.

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Up against a Moana Pasifika side playing just their third-ever game of Super Rugby – and who had been beaten 59-12 by the Chiefs the previous weekend – the Hurricanes struggled to build any ascendency throughout the match, making countless errors which stymied their momentum on attack.

When the passes stuck for more than just a few phases, the Hurricanes looked dangerous, but far too often a dropped ball or missed touch-finder let Moana Pasifika off the hook and even though the Pacific Islanders were forced to make significantly more tackles than their opposite, they never dipped their heads and never looked too shattered from their massive defensive effort. Instead, they simply found belief.

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With the scores locked up at 19-all after 80 minutes, it was the Hurricanes who earned the first significant territory advantage, only for Moana Pasifika to secure turnover ball inside their 22 with a Danny Toala kick-and-chase resulting in a match-winning score for the home side.

“I thought the way they approached that game of footy and their passion, their desire, their work-rate, their energy was awesome,” Hurricanes coach Jason Holland said following the defeat. “That’s how footy players operate and that’s awesome so congratulations to them, I thought they were outstanding.

 

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“They scrambled well, they took their opportunities when they were there and they were nice and physical and they worked hard. So they deserve everything they got tonight, I think.

Holland was less positive about his own side’s performance.

“From our point of view, obviously really, really disappointed,” he said. “We were far from accurate and far from clinical in a lot of things we did.

“I think we scored three tries pretty much just by doing what we trained and then a little bit from the pressure we were under but we just weren’t accurate enough around some parts of our game.

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“Defensively, we let them get in behind really easily. We didn’t win any collisions. they got in behind us and created a lot of things. Their try to go 19-all shows a pretty good picture of that. From an attack point of view, we were hit-and-miss a little bit.

“It was a pretty disappointed dressing room down there, a dressing room that’s really real around what’s happened tonight. But as I say, that 88 minutes or whatever it is definitely won’t define our season and it’ll just be how we respond to that.”

While the Hurricanes had the ascendency at the set-piece, that didn’t always pay dividends for Holland’s men. Twice Jordie Barrett failed to find touch with penalty kicks which would have handed the Hurricanes prime attacking opportunities while even the scrum failed to generate too much clean ball, with Moana Pasifika able to disrupt even when they were coming under pressure.

The Hurricanes were dished out plenty of penalties throughout the match – 18 in total – but not once attempted a shot on goal, instead selecting higher-risk options. In one instance, the Hurricanes opted for a mid-field scrum inside the attacking 22 but when the ball spurted out, it was Moana Pasifika halfback Joanthan Taumateine who was the first to the party, eventually hacking the ball down the field.

“We’ll make decisions based on what’s happening but we had some real momentum in our scrum,” Holland said when explaining the team’s decision-making.

“I think it was the second scrum but midfield scrum’s pretty tough to defend and our mindset is if we’ve got momentum on teams, we want to hurt them harder in that area. That ball came out of the side of the scrum I think and they kicked it away.

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“Those are the decisions you live and die by but our mindset was if we were getting on top of them in an area, we were really gonna try and hammer it home. That’s sort of how we scored some points eventually. It was pretty much our mindset there.”

While Moana Pasifika struggled to efficiently escape from their own 22 – sometimes kicking the ball directly into the arms of a Hurricanes back three that looked dangerous when given time and space – Holland acknowledged that his side failed to make the most of this weakness.

“We found it really hard to get out of our own half from the kicking game in the first half,” he said. “I think for a good couple of times we kicked really well and they had to get out of their own end and I think that’s how Josh [Moorby] scored his try and Alex [Fidow] scored his try because we kicked off and kept them down there. So we wanted to play territory and sort of pin them in their own end. We were a little bit hit and miss with that as well.”

While Moana Pasifika will square off with the Blues on Tuesday, the Hurricanes have the ‘luxury’ of not playing another match until next Sunday when they’ll take on the high-flying Chiefs in Wellington. There will certainly be some significant personnel changes between the 23 that ran out against Moana Pasifika and the one that will take on the Chiefs but Holland will be conscious that it will also take a much smarter game plan to get one over the team that thrashed Moana Pasifika 59-12 just last weekend.

After this weekend’s loss, the Hurricanes remain eighth on the overall ladder but the gap between them and the top sides in the competition will have grown significantly.

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