Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Impressive Hurricanes go top with win

Ben Tapuai of the Reds is tackled by Jack Lam and Andre Taylor of the Hurricanes during the round 11 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Reds. Photo / Getty Images.
Ben Tapuai of the Reds is tackled by Jack Lam and Andre Taylor of the Hurricanes during the round 11 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Reds. Photo / Getty Images.

Hurricanes 35
Reds 21

The crazy thing isn't that the Hurricanes find themselves top of the New Zealand Conference tonight. It's the fact that it feels entirely right that is a bit hard to take in.

It was only a few weeks back the world was howling for their coach to be sacked such was the insipid and bumbling work of the Canes. Now that the coach has kind of sacked himself, the Hurricanes can do no wrong.

They beat the Reds with yet more off the cuff rugby that didn't appear to adhere to any game plan. Some of it was quite brilliant; some of it was a bit loose and that's why the Reds were still in it until Ardie Savea hammered through the throng to kill the contest on 75 minutes.

It would have been too bizarre even in this most bizarre of weekends, had the Hurricanes not got the job done. Their good bits far outweighed the patchy and the skill level was reassuringly high and a heap of players important to the national cause contributed.

None more so than TJ Perenara who is beginning to play as well as he did in 2012 when he captured the nation's imagination.

He probed and darted, twisted and turned and sparked the Hurricanes into life. It was a surprise to see him leave after 63 minutes - but it might have been made on the basis he had to be wilting after running non stop.

Not that the Hurricanes were short of willing ball carriers: Alapati Leiua was always on hand to take his team forward and the Hurricanes still probably haven't come to terms with how much they are going to miss him nest season.

Or Andre Taylor for that matter as he too was in vintage form - carving chunks out of the Reds with his arcing runs from deep.

There is something almost hypnotic about the Hurricanes when they seemingly play like Jedi Knights - shut their eyes and trust in the force. Maybe all that is only possible after deep analysis of the technical and tactical detail during the week. Or maybe the Hurricanes could actually forget about training and just turn up on game day and see what happens.

So many teams get caught up thinking about the game plan - not the Hurricanes. They appeared happy once again to simply trust their instincts and pass, catch and run without inhibition.

Cory Jane's second try was breathtaking in speed, simplicity and skill execution. It was pass and catch and straight line running at its best. What made it particularly special was that there were forwards in there who made it look like it was the most natural thing in the world for them.

One of those forwards was Dane Coles, who has shown an uncanny ability to make unorthodox passes to create crucial tries. The other was Victor Vito who delivered a performance All Black coach Steve Hansen would have found hard to ignore.

The advice to Vito last year was to clear his mind of clutter and hit hard and run hard. Don't think, just play was the general message and might he now at last have learned that art? His work rate was high, his close defence was telling and when he found himself in space he ran with the intention of not being stopped.

He at last is playing with freedom and confidence - just as the Hurricanes are and maybe at the end of this season, coach Mark Hammett should stay on, start next year and then say again he won't be staying.

It has worked a treat for them this year.

Hurricanes 35 (C. Jane 3, TJ Perenara, A. Savea tries; B. Barrett 2 cons, 2 pens) Reds 21 (B. Lucas, J. Hanson tries; Q. Cooper con, 3 pens).

- Herald on Sunday

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