Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Expect more aerial rugby as the stakes get higher

Liam Messam worked well with Tanerau Latimer on Friday. Photo / Getty Images
Liam Messam worked well with Tanerau Latimer on Friday. Photo / Getty Images

Judging by what we saw on Friday night in Wellington, we are reaching the stage of the season when the rugby is going to tighten up and become a lot closer to test matches in terms of style, intensity and physicality.

The weather was obviously a factor in the Hurricanes vs Chiefs game. Wet conditions encouraged both sides to kick and chase more than they have.

The Hurricanes were bizarrely disadvantaged late in the game when the Chiefs had Ben Tameifuna sent to the sin-bin. The yellow card for the Chiefs prop meant the game went to uncontested scrums and much of the contest was defused . The Hurricanes were building momentum and looking for the winning score - having contested scrums was important and they were denied.

But what to do? Can we really have teams nominating another player to take the yellow card in place of a prop to ensure scrums can still be contested?

Despite that anomaly, the Chiefs earned their victory on the back of some quality work from a few individuals. What gave the contest added edge was the number of match-ups across the field in regard to All Black selection.

In the battle of the halfbacks, I felt Tawera Kerr-Barlow had a lot of influence around the scrum and breakdown. He caused problems. TJ Perenara is probably the tidier halfback, a different sort of player and if it comes down to a straight choice between either of these two to be the third halfback for the All Blacks, I'd say it's a toss of a coin.

Beauden Barrett is improving and played better. But Aaron Cruden is an old campaigner and he is very deliberate, very calculated now. He doesn't take a lot of risks the way he used to, whereas Barrett still carries an element of risk.

In the loose forwards, Liam Messam showed up well physically and was happy to get in the faces of a few Hurricanes players. That helped him get noticed. I wouldn't say he outplayed Victor Vito, because the Hurricanes No8 didn't get the same sort of support as Messam did. Messam worked particularly well in tandem with Tanerau Latimer.

The Hurricanes, on the other hand, were more a collection of individuals. Jack Lam and Faifili Levave did their own thing and in these big games, it's important that the back-row work as one.

I'd expect this type of rugby to be more prevalent in the coming weeks - which isn't a bad thing at all. I know the game probably wasn't a great spectacle, but these grinding, gutsy performances are satisfying for players and coaches. They learn plenty and I would say at this time of year, those sorts of performances are what win championships.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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