Hurricanes v Blues: Fumbling defeat irks
The spirit was a tad begrudging, but there was no mistaking the frustration of Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett after Saturday night's Super Rugby season opener at the Cake Tin.
The Canes coach had just seen his men fumble and bumble their way to an opening night 34-20 defeat at the hands of Sir John Kirwan's new-look Blues and it was an experience that clearly took a toll on the normally genial Hammett.
"The Blues won but it felt like we lost the game," said Hammett after his team coughed up a 13-11 halftime lead, and 20-16 advantage heading into the final quarter. "I think we had 18 turnovers and 13 of those were just dropsees.
"I'm not quite sure what we put that down to, whether it was nerves or depth. The boys were certainly focused you could see that with the intensity and see that when we did put things together."
The Hurricanes were certainly badly off their game in a second half where they failed to hold on to the ball long enough to threaten the Blues line.
They also paid the price, said Hammett, for gifting too many scoring opportunities to a side with the firepower to cash in.
"They're pretty similar to us. You turn ball over and they're going to be dangerous. Any team is hard to defend off turnover ball and these guys I'm sure they'll prove for the rest of the year they're one of the teams you don't want to turn ball over against."
But Hammett felt there was at least some reason for optimism.
"It's game one. Naturally we're gutted but it feels like something that can be fixed. I'm not saying it will be easy but it is fixable, and pretty quickly."
Hammett had no qualms with the penalty try decision which he felt was correct under the laws of the game, but he admitted to some disappointment with some of the other decisions that went against his men.
"There were a few things within the game that were hard to swallow," he said. "Their first try was a massive forward pass, and we felt Timmy [Bateman] got done with a head-high. It's a pity, because you look at some of those little things to see how you could get back in.
"But you go right back and it's ultimately about holding the ball and we didn't do that."
The main injury concern for Hammett was a head knock suffered by skipper Conrad Smith late in the contest.
But early indications after the game were positive. "I was talking to him before and he said he feel fine. We'll monitor him over the next 48 hours," added Hammett.
Next up for the Canes is a Friday night visit to the Queensland Reds. It does not get any easier for a side looking to bounce back quickly.
The Dominion Post