Super teams warm up fast
The Crusaders may have lost their undefeated record at Alpine Energy Stadium to the Hurricanes, on Saturday, but both coaches still had plenty to smile about.
The Hurricanes earned a 27-26 victory in front of nearly 5000 people on a sweltering Timaru day, thanks to an intercept try from former Crusader Tim Bateman with 10 minutes to play.
Mark Hammett's side outscored the Crusaders five tries to four and had to overcome an early 19-5 deficit.
The more the match went on, the better the men from the capital looked.
They had long periods with the ball and seemed to have more intensity and continuity.
Their forward pack was superior at scrum time, but with several All Blacks watching from the grandstand, including No 8 and captain Kieran Read, it was of little concern to Blackadder after the game.
Tries to Shane Christie, Kieran Fonotia and fleet-footed hooker Codie Taylor appeared to have the Crusaders cruising midway through the first of four 20-minute quarters.
But the Hurricanes, led by their superior pack and former All Black lock Jason Eaton, started powering their way back into the contest.
While he only received limited game time, Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara made his biggest step yet towards returning to the big time, taking part in his first serious hit-out since breaking an ankle during the Hurricanes bye week on the Gold Coast last June.
All three Hurricanes halfbacks, Perenara, Chris Smylie and Papa Wharewera were impressive, particularly Wharewera who showed good speed playing a roaming role on both wings.
Down by a point well into injury time, the Crusaders launched from inside their half and after four minutes of relentless attack found themselves inside the Hurricanes 22 before the move broke down.
Stand-in captain George Whitelock said there was never any thought of taking a drop goal.
Hammett said it was a good first effort from his side.
"I thought both teams played with more structure than perhaps you'd expect this time of year so I know I'm happy and I'd imagine Toddy would be happy with parts of that.
"We probably didn't get the benefit out of the scrum that I thought we should have but this time of year it's probably a good thing we had a few more resets than usual.
"The attitude and urgency around the defensive line was also good but I don't think we were accurate enough at times.
"But the mentality was right."
Blackadder said he was "rapt" with the effort considering the number of new players who got an opportunity.
"I was really pleased with that, there were a lot of good patches there and we'll learn a lot from it.
"I'm really rapt considering we had one training run beforehand and introduced 14 new guys."
The Hurricanes will travel to Geelong to take on the Melbourne Rebels in another pre-season game on Saturday while the Crusaders will face the Highlanders in Oamaru on Friday afternoon.
the Highlanders in Oamaru on Friday afternoon.
Hurricanes 27 (James Marshall, Ash Dixon, Jason Eaton, Papa Wharewera, Tim Bateman tries; Andre Taylor 1 con) Crusaders 26 (Shane Christie, Kieran Fonotia, Codie Taylor, Tom Marshall tries; Tyler Blyendaal 2 con, Tyrone Elkington 1 con) HT 15-19.
The Timaru Herald