A 44-22 scoreline makes for cheerful reading if you are Hurricanes fan.
If you are looking at the digits from a Crusaders’ perspective, don’t worry too much. The Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was just glad to get through this without any injuries, and was happy to blood 18 newcomers at Greymouth’s Rugby Park on Friday night. Not surprisingly, Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd was also pleased. No injuries, and a win to boot.
This was a fixture heaving with multiple line breaks from both sides, the odd heavy shot by fired-up defenders and a try to Julian Savea – a man who might have jotted down in his New Year’s resolutions list that he wanted to give the All Blacks selectors reason to keep penning his name in their notebooks during Super Rugby.
It is often foolhardy to read too much into these early fixtures, and being the first pre-season game of the year meant no All Blacks who toured Europe last last year were involved.
Still, it never hurts to have bragging rights does it?
Given the wild winds that roared over the West Coast town on Thursday, the teams could have been distracted by the dramatic pictures beamed out around New Zealand prior to kick-off.
As it happened the fixture was played in perfect conditions in front of 4000 onlookers, and the athletes were certainly on edge. There was even some push and giggles between the Hurricanes’ loosie Brad Shields and Crusaders’ prop Mike Alaalatoa, but although it came to nothing to added some credibility to the contest.
For the Hurricanes, to record a convincing win over the Super Rugby title holders – even if their sole All Black on the park was veteran No 10 Mike Delany – was something to keep in the back of their minds for when they meet their southern rivals in the season proper.
Early in the second half the Hurricanes were ahead 36-5 and a rout looked possible, until a three-try burst midway through the second spell closed the gap: those Coasters loyal to the men in red and black might have felt this was to be the start of a memorable comeback.
It didn’t happen.
The Hurricanes certainly didn’t lack desire. They hunted down those Crusaders who crept through holes in the defensive line, and that was the sort of hunger their coaches would have demanded as they put them through the wringer during the blood-and-guts pre-Christmas trainings.
Any anxiety Northampton-bound coach Chris Boyd might have felt prior to kick-off – because who knows what can happen in these summer hit-outs – must have subsided after about 20 minutes.
It was the Hurricanes who roared out of the gates best, finding space with long flat passes to the fringes as well as making easy yards up the guts with the blokes numbered one to eight; right wing Jonah Lowe scored the first try in the 10th minutes, left wing Ben Lam grabbed the next one four minutes later and then Lowe nicked another.
Within 17 minutes, the Canes were up by as many points. The Crusaders’ counter-punched when flanker Billy Harmon ended a multi-phase attack with his five-pointer but it was Lowe who ended the first spell on the happiest note when he completed his hat-track.
Lowe relinquished his possie to some bloke in bright boots called Savea, and the All Black quickly settled his nerves when he held off the defence long enough to finish a big sprint by scoring the first try of the second stanza.
AT A GLANCE
Hurricanes 44 (Jonah Lowe 3, Ben Lam, Julian Savea, Finlay Christie, Vince Aso tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, Ihaia West 2 con)
beat Crusaders 22 (Billy Harmon, Jack Stratham, Tima Faingaanuku, Manasa Mataele tries; Brett Cameron con)