The reliable word around McLean Park, Napier, last night was that Hurricanes assistant coach and former Magpie John Plumtree was an animated bloke in the changing room at halftime.

After establishing a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Hurricanes went off the boil to allow the Brumbies to take a 21-14 lead at halftime in the round eight Super Rugby clash which attracted 13,118 fans on an ideal night for an entertaining spectacle.

Hurricanes openside Ardie Savea, who was close behind fellow All Black and Canes first-five Beauden Barrett as player of the match, would neither confirm nor deny Plumtree's approach.

"We started off well but then got a little bit soft," Savea said. "It was just a case of getting back to the basics. I'm proud of the way the boys came back and we made our one-on-one tackles. I'm happy with this going into the bye."

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First-time Canes captain and fellow loosie Brad Shields was a little more up front.

"We knew we were lagging. We got a boot up the arse and took things up another gear.

"It was a little bit trying out there at times but we came together well," Shields added.

Taranaki-bound former Magpies hooker Ricky Riccitelli, one of several second stringers to make the most of starting for the hosts, said the 52-10 drubbing the Canes suffered against the Brumbies in last season's opening round in Canberra was the motivational ammunition.

"They took it to us that night."

Riccitelli, Magpies prop Ben May and outgoing Magpies lock Mark Abbott were almost as prominent as Savea in the dominant Canes pack.

"We really wanted to set the platform for our backs. We like to dominate with our set piece."

Riccitelli pointed out there is no difference between the first and second stringers at the Canes.

"We have a good bond between the brothers and it doesn't matter what number you have on your back, you do it for the team."

The manner in which the defending champions scored 42 unanswered points in the second half will give them confidence for the rest of the season. The Canes scrum was awesome and their defence top shelf, particularly in the second half.

Apart from No 8 Blade Thomson who dislocated a shoulder, the Canes have no injury concerns.

Beauden Barrett confirmed his status as the best player on the planet with numerous assists of the eight tries run in by the hosts. His cover defensive work was superb and his clever cross kicks for try scorers to run on to couldn't have been more accurate.

Centre Vince Aso deserved his hat-trick, which must have brought back memories for former All Black and Hurricanes fullback Christian Cullen, who was among the television commentators at the ground. Cullen scored three tries in his All Blacks debut against Samoa at McLean Park in 1996.

Barrett's brother, fullback Jordie Barrett did well to kick all seven of his conversions on a night when nobody missed their attempts. Substitute Otere Black landed his sole attempt and former Southland pivot Wharenui Hawera succeeded with all three of his.

However, Hawera didn't help the visitors' cause when he was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 42nd minute. The Canes scored 14 points while Hawera was off.

Halfback Joe Powell was the pick of the Brumbies. It was surprising Brumbies coach and former Wallaby Stephen Larkham didn't make changes sooner in the second half, as many of his troops struggled with the tempo the Canes played at.

The Brumbies enjoyed the early possession and should have scored during the first two minutes after a break from fullback Aidan Touia. However, the visitors lacked the necessary patience and accuracy.

The Canes opened the scoring in the eighth minute with the first of Aso's tries. Canes winger and former Magpies fullback Cory Jane scored in the 14th minute after an accurate kick in the air to the corner from Beauden Barrett.

Canes flanker Ardie Savea saved a try in the 20th minute when he won the chase to a kick ahead from the Brumbies. However, the visitors scored when centre Tevita Kuridrani dived over in the 23rd minute after a superb carry from prop Nic Mayhew.

Clever options from Powell and sustained pressure from the Brumbies forwards saw captain and lock Sam Carter score in the 26th minute.

Powell deserved his 28th minute try after the Brumbies took advantage of some loose Canes defensive work. Hawera's conversion had the visitors ahead 21-14. The Hurricanes turned down a kick at goal in the 38th minute and went close to scoring after some phase play but stout Brumbies defence forced a turnover and the visitors deserved their halftime lead.

Aso scored his second try in the 47th minute after another clever kick from Beauden Barrett which Thomson caught and passed to Aso. Jordie Barrett tied the game with his conversion.

Aso had his hat-trick in the 52nd minute after collecting a clever flat pass from Beauden Barrett. Substitute flanker Callum Gibbins gave the Canes a comfortable buffer when he scored off a charge down in the 61st minute. Four minutes later, Abbott dived over for his third try in two games. Jordie Barrett slotted the conversion from wide out.

Gibbins had his second try in the 73rd minute. Another clever cross kick from Beauden Barrett saw second-five Ngani Laumape score a 77th-minute try, which Black converted converted from wide out.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Heart stopper: Canes captain and loosie Brad Shields' 15th-minute tackle on Brumbies fullback Aidan Toua. It was a beauty.

Turning point: Canes substitute flanker Callum Gibbins' charge-down try in the 61st minute, which Jordie Barrett converted to give the hosts a 35-21 lead.

Player of the match: Hurricanes first five-eighth Beauden Barrett. Still the best player on the planet with superb assists and option taking. Openside flanker Ardie Savea wasn't far behind him.

Scorers: Hurricanes 56 (Vince Aso 3, Cory Jane, Callum Gibbins 2, Mark Abbott, Ngani Laumape tries; Jordie Barrett 7, Otere Black cons) Brumbies 21 (Tevita Kuridrani, Sam Carter, Joe Powell tries; Wharenui Hawera 3 cons).
Halftime: Brumbies 21-14.