Now that all the excitement of an incredible Six Nations is over, The Lineout packs it bags and heads South of the Equator as we look at the Super Rugby competition as it nears its halfway mark and really gets into the business end of the tournament. We won’t be ignoring the Northern Hemisphere altogether and will be heading back next weekend to look at the quarter finals of the European Championship, and for that matter will cover this tournament up to its conclusion in May. However, starting with this weekend we will be increasingly focusing on Southern Hemisphere action with the last half of the Super Rugby Competition and then this year’s abbreviated Rugby Championship, as we get a feel for the types of teams that Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will be fielding come the World Cup in September. Each week we will look at the top team from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa based on the Super Rugby Table for that week. This week, as the top team from Australia the Brumbies had the weekend off, we look at the game played by New Zealand’s Hurricanes. I had planned to cover the Stormers game against the Highlanders but due to technical difficulties with the broadcaster in Canada, I was unable to watch the game, so I apologise to South African readers that this week they are not represented – this will be rectified for the remainder of the Super Rugby competition.
Hurricanes vs Rebels
Final Score – Hurricanes 36/Rebels 12
The Hurricanes going into this match were looking very much a side to beat after the first six rounds of the Super Rugby competition. Unbeaten and looking very composed, the Hurricanes definitely look like the New Zealand side that all the other teams need to beat if they want any chance of lifting this year’s Super Rugby trophy. As always the Hurricanes boast a strong contingent of All Blacks as well as some younger players who are rapidly getting the attention of the selectors.
Melbourne’s rebels have so far had an unlikely season. Unable to win at home yet managing to win all their away games is definitely an anomaly in not only this competition but international rugby in general. Led by the Wallaby stalwart Scott Higginbotham, the Rebels have shed their status of new kids on the block and are increasingly becoming a side to reckon with.
The Hurricanes started the match with intent, despite resting Beauden Barrett and the mighty Julian Savea, and fullback Jason Woodward certainly rose to the task with the kicking duties in place of Barrett. Scrum half TJ Perenara in this match, as he has for much of the competition, showed that he is a force to be reckoned with and is certainly trying to get the attention of the All Blacks selectors. Perenara scored the opening try for the Hurricanes from some superb ball carrying from the always physical but quick off the mark, Ma’a Nonu.
Nevertheless, for much of the match the Rebels were not exactly a pushover and were competitive right up until the final whistle. However, what seemed to let them down was their finishing and poor execution after maintaining good possession for several phases. The Hurricanes were effective at tiring the Rebels out particularly at the breakdown with an effective defence and succeeded in securing vital turnovers just when you thought things were about to go the Rebels way. The Hurricanes had to work for the full eighty minutes and at times were lucky to get away with some borderline play at the breakdowns, managing to just stay within the shadow of the law and out of the referee’s spotlight. A solid first half performance from the Rebels saw them with a 12-10 lead at half time. Were they about to repeat their success rate on the road?
Despite a valiant and courageous effort by the Rebels, the Hurricanes nevertheless increasingly took ownership of the match in the second half. All Black danger man, Cory Jane got the scoring going for the Hurricanes after half time, and despite the Rebels enjoying a healthy dose of possession and territory throughout the second half, it was only the Hurricanes who were able to find the try line with two more superb efforts from youngster Nehe Milner-Skudder who is also surely getting the attention of the All Black selectors. The Hurricanes despite a repeated onslaught from the Rebels, showed that they were strong and well organised in defence and did enough to keep the Rebels out and in the end emerged deserved winners, as well as the Hurricanes’ number 7 Calum Gibbins also bagging his first try.
The Hurricanes look good, very good! With their All Black contingent consistently delivering the goods along with some very exciting newcomers coming to the fore, they will be THE New Zealand team to beat this year, as well as offering the All Blacks selectors plenty to work with.