Haven't we all been here before?

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013
Hurricanes
Kevin Stent/ FAIRFAX NZ
STUNNED: New Hurricanes player Ben Franks looks shell-shocked after the 34-20 loss to the Blues in their opening Super Rugby match at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

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Don't panic, it's only week one.

That's the comfort blanket the Hurricanes have wrapped themselves in as they digest their deflating first-up 34-20 Super Rugby loss to the Blues at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

Today, though, will be anything but comfortable as the squad reviews a performance that, for many fans, has dredged up familiar feelings of frustration and disappointment.

If he's looking for positive reinforcement, coach Mark Hammett might want to stop the tape at halftime. It would save several players' blushes after some mistook the second spell for a game of rippa rugby.

It will, of course, fall to the senior players to restore confidence and perspective and loosehead prop Ben Franks is well placed after being the pick of the Hurricanes' losing effort.

"I'm not going to be too judgmental in round one," he said.

"Look, I've lost one or two games at the start of the season before with the Crusaders. That doesn't make a season. It's how we progress from what we did this week to next week against the Reds.

"We did a lot of things good, but you only have to be off five or 10 per cent, especially against the other New Zealand teams because it's so intense . . .

"A lot of it is just mental switches. I don't want to sound blase about it, but it's only the first game. If we make the same mistakes next week and the week after then frustration will come out.

"It's hard to be too reactive to how you feel right now. You have to marry that up to what you see on the video."

What the squad will see is a decent first half effort that lacked finish, followed by a second half riddled with poor handling and missed tackles.

Wing Alapati Leiua can rest easy. He was the Hurricanes' best back, while wing partner Julian Savea and Victor Vito, once he'd moved to No 8, where he should have started, gain pass marks too.

But others must improve drastically and particularly young inside backs TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett.

Barrett played uncharacteristically deep at first receiver, shuffling the ball wide without taking on the line, a trait that usually sets him apart on attack.

Perenara's running game was strangely absent and some of his passing was not of its normally high standard.

The game plan looked sound, if a little prescriptive, and for 40 minutes the Hurricanes laid a decent platform.

The lineout was accurate, the scrum solid and they dominated possession and territory.

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But for poor decision-making at crucial times they would have had more than one try to Savea to show.

Perhaps the wide game would have got them home in the second half, but they will never know because the attack was continuously sawn off by poor handling.

It is that and the missed tackles which will eat away at the players. There were 17 one-on-one misses, with lock Jeremy Thrush and Barrett repeat offenders, plus one bad defensive read from Brad Shields for good measure.

There were 14 knock-ons, fullback Andre Taylor spilling the ball cold on three occasions.

Vito, who may well be captain by the end of the week, said the work-ons this week were fairly obvious, but there was no value in dwelling.

"We have to quickly take our learnings from this game. It's a short turnaround this week to the Reds on Friday, so we haven't got much time to lick our wounds . . .

"Creating is one thing, but finishing off is what the classy teams do and I think that's something we need to get right."

Contact Toby Robson
Chief rugby writer
Email: toby.robson@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @TobyRobsonNZ

- The Dominion Post

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