Rugby: Savea brothers put on a show

Julian Savea of the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images
Julian Savea of the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images

It was hard to tell which Savea brother was better as the Hurricanes picked apart the Waratahs 41-29 at the Cake Tin last night.

Julian scored two of the Hurricanes four tries in the bonus-point victory, while debutant flanker Ardie proved the hype around him is justified with an impressive first-up display at this level.

At 22, with nine tests and 12 tries for the All Blacks under his belt, bruising wing Julian is the more experienced campaigner but it won't be long before his younger brother joins him in the international game.

Ardie, who is still only 19, had to wait patiently to make his Super Rugby debut after copping a four-week ban in the final pre-season game in February, but he made up for it in fine fashion.

His support play was impressive, his work-rate was immense and Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett said it was a top display from the young tyro.

"I thought it was an excellent debut," the third-year head coach said. "Naturally we'll sit down and look at the tape and look at the finer parts of his game but if you're sitting there watching it as a fan you couldn't help but see how dynamic he was with ball in hand - the steals.

I think it was the 70th minute of the game [he was] tackling, up, steal. And those things are pretty priceless so he had a really good start."

There was also a nice touch between the brothers before the game.

"They're a special family," Hammett said. "I know that the whole Savea family will be proud. Julian presented Ardie with his jersey today before the game so it was an emotional, proud moment."

Julian was named man of the match on the Westpac Stadium big screen with only a few minutes left in the game but his sibling can't have been far off from being given the honour.

"It was pretty good to play with my brother," Julian said after the game. "Especially on his debut. Yeah, a very proud moment. He had an awesome game and I think our team, as a team, we performed really well."

First-five Beauden Barrett had the ball on a string all night for the Hurricanes and his deft grubber kick laid on a try for hooker Motu Matu'u in the second spell, just after prop Reg Goodes showed a good turn of pace to score in the 45th minute.

The Hurricanes held a 19-16 lead at the break after a penalty-laden first spell, but the second half was where they did their best work as the Savea brothers continued to dominate.

Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith said he didn't take it upon himself to give Ardie too many words of wisdom ahead of his much-awaited debut.

"I think you always worry that they're getting too much in their ear during the week. I know a lot of people would have been talking to him so I didn't say a lot," Smith said.

"I said a little bit just before the game, just to listen to the guys and always connect, you're not doing it by yourself. It's something I know I felt in the early games, you can sort of freak out but if you remember you've got 14 guys around you to help you out then you can sort of relax a little bit more. But I knew he was going to have a big game and he'll be a force for us this year and the years to come."

The victory, which was the Hurricanes' fourth in a row, showed they're a side who is building nicely but they still fall off too many tackles, particularly after the first phase.

Their handling was better last night despite the damp conditions but it remains a work in process for Hammett's men, who will head to Auckland to meet the Blues at Eden Park next weekend.

Hurricanes 41 (Julian Savea 2, Reg Goodes, Motu Matu'u tries; Beauden Barrett 5 pens, 3 con) Waratahs 29 (Bernard Foley, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau tries; Brendan McKibbin 4 pens, con) HT: 19-16


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