The Hurricanes inflicted the 12th trans-Tasman loss of 2017 on the Waratahs on Friday night.
What did we learn from the clash?
1. Too little, too late, too often
When the Waratahs click, they look like a team that can seriously threaten. Unfortunately they seem to only find that symbiosis sporadically. On Friday night, it was the second 40 where they found a spark, outscoring the Hurricanes and denying the Kiwis a bonus point. But that wasn’t enough to undo a 12-minute blitz in which the home side found the line thrice. It’s not the first time they’ve been sluggish starters and they won’t win consistently until they sort it out.
2. Foley keeps the cool
Bernard Foley is the glue of the Waratahs backline and he did his job very well. Some misjudged kicks hurt the side, but overall he steered the team in the right direction. Confident he is finally clear of concussion, the playmaker once again showed his value.HIs combination with Jake Gordon made a stride in Wellington as well.
3. Kicking woes cause more pain
The Waratahs spoke often this week about improving their kicking game, after they battled against the Crusaders. Yet, it took just 90 seconds for the Wellington side to punish a poorly-judged kick from Jake Gordon, who opted for a short exit. Ngani Laumape finished off the counterattack in spectacular fashion for the Hurricanes’ first try. Once they started running, they found their own opportunities in attack and managed to straighten themselves out. They need to pick their times better.
4. Hegarty finds his groove
He wasn’t the right fit as Foley’s flyhalf replacement but Bryce Hegarty has potential at 15. He looked settled at the back and actually generated some attack for the Waratahs, throughout the game. A try-saving tackle was undone mere minutes later but the 15 finished up with 129 run metres and a try in his best performance for NSW. The same couldn’t be said for Israel Folau, who looked in a state of flux until the dying minutes.
5. Barrett human after all...almost
Beauden Barrett rarely missteps, but tonight he found himself relegated to the sideline twice for deliberate knockdowns. The first stint gave Ned Hanigan the Waratahs’ opening try and the second nearly put the Waratahs dangerously close. When the red card offence in the 77th minute deep in NSW attacking territory, Nick Phipps pleaded for a penalty try, to no avail. If we were the cynical type, we might be calling conspiracy by Barrett, cutting off a near-certain try to ensure the Hurricanes just stayed at arm’s length. But we’re not here to give rise to conspiracy theories. The least surprising part of his trsngressions? Even with 13 minutes off the field, the All Blacks 10 managed to be a game breaker.