Hurricanes got things badly wrong vs Blues
The Hurricanes coaches need to cop this one on the chin.
Tactically, they simply got things wrong at Eden Park on Saturday where kick replaced run, and loss replaced win.
First five eighth Tusi Pisi played well enough, but after running up 41 points against the Waratahs, the Hurricanes attack ground to a halt during their 28-6 loss to the Blues.
A clear tactic to kick short recoverable kicks yielded early results and some territory, but it had several negative effects.
The dangerous duo of Conrad Smith and Julian Savea didn't get into the game, deprived of otherwise quality ball, and openside Ardie Savea did not have any width to utilise his pace.
It didn't look, nor feel, like the Hurricanes previous matches.
Instead of Savea, it was Blues backs like, centre Francis Saili, fullback Charles Piutau and wing Frank Halai who got plenty of early touches.
Momentum was always going to be key for two teams who thrive on confidence and the Blues got it and never let it go.
Hurricanes loosies Brad Shields and Faifili Levave ran hard, but seemed to aim at the man in front of them rather than moving the ball to space.
Big loose forwards like Steven Luatua and Peter Saili soaked up the challenge and threw it back hard, while Piri Weepu read the game to perfection.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett zeroed in yesterday on a lack of intensity in the collision.
"I have talked to the boys and the feeling is it was more around we didn't front from a forward perspective," he said.
"They beat us in the forward exchanges. It was the little things, like how desperate they were in the ruck, how they made it very hard for us to clear the ball. And there was that five per cent more sting in their tackles.
"There was probably a lack of intensity and that's disappointing especially after having that for all of our games so far this year."
All true, but Hammett and Alama Ieremia will likely also question the decision to shift Beauden Barrett to fullback.
While he is having some issues defensively this season, he remains a lethal spark to the Hurricanes running game and had guided them to four straight wins.
Pisi looked sharp against the Blues, and may even be an option at second five eighth where Tim Bateman is strangely out of sorts.
But it is Barrett who is most effective in getting the ball into the hands of the key men and is wasted at fullback.
He should be restored to first five eighth of Friday night's match against the Force in Wellington, a match the Hurricanes can not afford to drop.
The likely return of No 8 Victor Vito from a calf strain would also be welcome and apart from a knock to prop Ben May's elbow the side is injury free.
The Force are no champions, but they're not a gimmee either after keeping Super Rugby's unpredictable streak going with a 16-14 win over the Crusaders.
In this competition anything's possible and it'll be a comforting thought for a Hurricanes side that needs to lift considerably from their last showing.