Canes must heed Beauden Barrett's call to arms

LAST GASP: Beauden Barrett gets past Ben Smith for another try in Dunedin but the Hurricanes' late comeback fell just short.
LAST GASP: Beauden Barrett gets past Ben Smith for another try in Dunedin but the Hurricanes' late comeback fell just short.

Beauden Barrett aptly summed it up, imploring the Hurricanes to rekindle their attacking heritage.

Since day dot, the Hurricanes have flourished through flamboyance. It's in their DNA. Sure, a balance between structure and the sublime needs to be struck. And, historically, that has not been the case with this team.

But this year, the scales seem well out of kilter. The Hurricanes have become too introverted. Cullen and co would barely recognise their style of play.

"In the way we play there's room for us to play with that freedom," assistant coach Alama Ieremia claimed.

The Cheetahs aside, only when games have been beyond them have they managed to flick the switch and genuinely back themselves. Only when there's no pressure do they ditch the conservative, kick-heavy tactics and have a crack.

That was the case in the final 10-minutes of the loss to the Brumbies and, once again, true in the flattering 35-31 defeat to the Highlanders on Friday.

"It's easy to play that sort of game when you're desperate," Barrett said. "We've got to ask ourselves why we leave it so late to push that button. Why can't it just be our normal game?"

Andre Taylor epitomises the sort of attacking spark that's been missing. The fullback endured a form slump last year, when he became too predictable. He returned with a bang in Dunedin.

"We needed that impact, that injection off the bench," Barrett said. "He's been missing for a while. It was good to see him come back and put his hand up."

Taylor's attacking guile needs harnessing, not hindering. After his standout cameo it would be a major surprise if he does not start against the Crusaders this week.

Selecting Marty Banks at fullback highlights the conservative game plan. Playing two receivers has merit, but the more Barrett touches the ball, the better the Hurricanes look.

The All Blacks playmaker was at the fore of his side's comeback, scoring two tries in a personal haul of 26 points to back up his return to form against the Cheetahs.

"I'm happy if the team's winning and we're playing well. I'd much rather play bad and see this team win than going out and losing each week," Barrett said.

Banks' struggles under the high ball were a major factor, along with collective ill-discipline and continued, basic handling errors. The visitors, who were starved of possession in the first half, also failed to adjust to the Highlanders' aggression at the breakdown.

The form of All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara is also revealing. Much like the team, he seems to be suffering a confidence crisis. His struggles are symptomatic of the team's overall direction.

This backward step makes last week's shellacking of the Cheetahs appear a one-off. Staring down the barrel of a 1-4 record, surely it's time to heed Barrett's plea to unleash the attack.

Sunday Star Times