Even coach Mark Hammett will struggle to pick the positives out of his side’s 29-21 loss to the Brumbies.
Desperate to make a statement in their first home match of the season, the Hurricanes looked like a side lacking conviction as they conceded four tries in crashing to a third straight defeat.
A late try to Blade Thomson closed the margin, but it was not enough to remove the flat feeling that prevailed for most of the match.
A long season lies ahead with one bonus point the total yield from three weeks of effort.
There is time to turn the ship around, but even the most die-hard of the 8096 fans in the stands will struggle right now to see the bright light Hammett has promised in his fourth season at the helm.
A loss to the Cheetahs next week is now firmly in the must win or the season could be over before it began.
While there was some structure to the first 20 minutes and a solid scrummaging effort, most other parts of the Hurricanes game failed to get out of first gear.
The rejigged midfield of rookie Cardiff Vaega and Conrad Smith summed things up after Hadleigh Parkes had pulled out with an elbow injury.
By fulltime it was Smith and Alapati Leiua, a make shift combination that look as unfamiliar as a Hurricanes defence that conceded two tries in each half and an attack that could only produce a lucky first half try to halfback TJ Perenara and Thomson’s late strike.
Wing Julian Savea was off his best for a third week running, but brother Ardie made an impact after being introduced off the bench in the 47th minute.
Ball retention in the second half was almost as bad as in Cape Town the previous week with spilt and forward passes and lost lineouts stifling any chance of momentum.
When Tevita Kuridrani spun past Vaega to score his side’s first try of the second half on 43 minutes the writing was on the wall and replacement loose forward Lachlan McCaffery ended the contest with his side’s bonus try with 10 minutes to play and a 29-16 lead.
The Hurricanes fumbled around for the most of the second half searching for something, anything to get them going.
In truth the score could have been more with the Brumbies held up over the line on two occasions.
The Hurricanes got a major dollop of luck on half an hour when wing Cory Jane stepped out, the officials inaction allowing the ball to be shuffled through Thomson and Conrad Smith’s hands before Perenara dived over for the try.
Hammett may well have looked skyward and reflected on last week’s loss in Cape Town, but his faith would have been short lived as he watched a handy 13-3 lead evaporate.
There was much to like about the opening 20 minutes with a dominant scrum grabbing a tight-head and concerted pressure lead to two Barrett penalties for a 6-0 lead.
But it was far from perfect.
Perenara wasted a strong attacking scrum with a horrible pass to Vagea. Then there was a lucky escape when Brumbies second five-eighth Pat McCabe exposed Vaega’s positional play by slicing through his inside shoulder on 25 minutes.
The home defences were creaking and when Vaega fumbled under his posts Mogg took full advantage.
The Brumbies turned down the resulting penalties and after opting for a scrum their fullback glided through untouched to close the gap to 13-10 after White’s conversion.
Mogg then sliced the Hurricanes apart from deep in his own territory and regathered his own kick to set up a sustained attack that saw Coleman score on the stroke of halftime.
Hurricanes: 21 (TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson tries, Beauden Barrett con, 3 pens)
Brumbies: 29 (Jesse Mogg, Robbie Coleman, Tevita Kuridrani, Lachlan McCaffery tries, Nic White 3 cons 1 pen)
What NZ rugby job would you give Robbie Deans?Related story: (See story)