The al New Zealand final lived up to its billing. We were treated to a tough fight with some great moments of skill and here is my review.
Hurricane 14 – 21 Highlanders
1 from 1, I went against the grain and this time I was right!
I think that it was well telegraphed how the Highlanders were going to play. It was all going to come down to if the Hurricanes could weather that aerial bombardment and in turn break down the Highlanders defence.
Early on the Highlanders managed to control the territory and whilst they couldn’t break the Canes defence down they did pickup a couple of penalties. With many people predicting a close scoreline making kicks was going to be important. When the Canes did get the ball they didn’t want to kick to the Landers dangerous back three and so when they are turned over it was often in poor field position giving the Landers a good advantage.
For the Canes you could see their senior players trying to take responsibility with the ball especially Nonu and Smith taking the ball up. In the end they managed to create a one on one near the line and Nonu was too powerful to stop. The missed conversion by Barrett was one of three in the first half and you can only feel that his injury was hindering this part of his game.
The Landers managed to strike back with an individual power try. When I first saw it I thought that there was a leg under the ball but on replays you can see it touching the ground afterwards. One of the annoying things was hearing the commentator talking about not having control, this is irrelevant as it’s not in the rule book. As long as it’s not knocked on then it’s only about having downward pressure. The conversion meant that the Landers carried an 8 point lead into halftime.
In the second half the Canes got the first points on the board with a penalty and you wondered if they would work their way back. But the Landers were very composed with the ball and eventually found the space for Naholo to score out wide. The Canes though build some dominance as they hanged their tactics and were happier to kick the ball for some territory. This paid off with a couple of penalties and they also had a golden opportunity for a score on the corner. However the last pass couldn’t be held and was knocked on. At the time I tweeted “Did he just drop the title?” which was harsh as the Canes were very much still in the game going in the last 10 minutes trailing by 4.
The Landers had already tried for one drop goal so the Canes knew exactly what the target was. There were several opportunities where the Landers had themselves set for the drop goal but the rich defence was quick enough to stop it. Eventually though Banks had the time and space to slot one through. The Landers claimed the kickoff and just played out time to take their first ever title.
There were some interesting stats that show you how the game was won such as 31 kicks from hand by the Highlander v 17 from the Hurricanes. That was also reflected in the 711 meters run with ball that the Hurricanes did vs 438 as they didn’t want to kick in the first half. The Hurricanes missed the younger Savea giving up 21 turnovers and only getting 15 back. But there were a couple that surprised me, for example I though that the lineouts were being well disrupted by both sides but the stats say there were only 2 lost by both sides. I guess the moral of the story is to check the facts match what you felt during the game.
We are going into a little lull in the amount of rugby being played but the Rugby Championship and Pacific Nations Cup kick off in July. Then in August the Currie Cup, ITM Cup and NRC will start. Click on any of the names to join in my prediction leagues and test your wits against me.