Pre-season defeat doesn't faze Hurricanes
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett wasn't concerned in the slightest about the scoreline in which his men lost 25-21 to the Chiefs at Mangatainoka yesterday.
In fact, partly in jest he suggested it might have been some sort of omen for the season ahead which starts with the Blues at Wellington next weekend.
"We beat them [the Chiefs] in this game last year and they went on and won the competition," he said.
But as Hammett pointed out, the Hurricanes didn't take kicks at goal in their final hit-out, their first loss in pre-season.
The Canes stormed back from 22-7 down after 62 minutes to score two converted tries in the final 14 minutes and put the wind up the defending Super champions.
The Chiefs did decide to bang over a penalty near the end just to make the game safe.
Until the late Hurricanes surge when the game at last came alive in front of 11,000 spectators crammed into the farm paddock, the Chiefs looked the dominant team.
Their scrum was powerful, their tackling was ferocious and it seemed there was no way through until the Hurricanes renaissance through giant wing Julian Savea.
"That Chiefs defence is outstanding and ultimately that's what won it for them," Hammett said.
"But we survived the game and I think we're in pretty good shape."
There was a huge penalty count, mainly against the Chiefs for infringements at the breakdown. They did have hooker Hika Elliot sinbinned by referee Glen Jackson in the first half and could have had more in the second.
"In a normal game they would have, one, two or three binned."
But Hammett was glad that didn't happen in this lead-up fixture. "We didn't want to be playing 13 men."
The Chiefs, with their strong starting XV on the field and with the wind behind them, were clinical in the first spell. Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow was over untouched from a quick tap from a penalty and quick hands saw wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma across for a 10-0 halftime lead.
And when a scintillating break from new halfback Augustine Pulu set up try No 3, it looked all over, the Chiefs bombing two more attempts close to the line. But Savea brushed off Bundee Aki and the comeback was on with the Canes benefiting from the penalty avalanche, although Hurricanes first- five Beauden Barrett missed touch and Tim Nanai-Williams scored in the corner.
"We had opportunities to put them out of sight," said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. "I was happy because it was a tough game; they tested us, but we have to be tidier than that."
Chiefs 25 (Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Bundee Aki, Tim Nanai- Williams tries; Gareth Anscombe con, pen) Hurricanes 21 (Julian Savea, Ardie Savea, Faifili Levave tries; Beauden Barrett con, James Marshall 2 con) HT 10-0.