Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Harried Hurricanes feeling the pinch

The Hurricanes threw some pretty average passes. Photo / Getty Images
The Hurricanes threw some pretty average passes. Photo / Getty Images

With two away losses in their two opening matches, the Hurricanes are clearly finding things difficult and, with their next match against the Blues at Eden Park on Friday, it's not about to get a lot easier.

If they're going to take a positive from losses against the Brumbies (a bad one) and the Highlanders it is that they managed to get themselves a bonus point in Dunedin and were in with a good shout of victory.

To make the playoffs you have to be consistently good at home and get the occasional away victory. Unfortunately for them they don't play at home until round four, a match against the Force in Palmerston North.

If they can beat the Blues in Auckland they will be reasonably happy, but in terms of Saturday night's match, the Highlanders deserved to win. They didn't statistically dominate the game in terms of possession but the Hurricanes didn't have the finishing quality of the Highlanders, who really lifted when they were behind. They had two tries disallowed and cranked it up a gear.

That was impressive.

The Hurricanes threw some pretty average passes. After round two, and more cracking New Zealand derbies, it's clear this conference is going to be closely contested again.

For the Blues, their performance against the Crusaders was a stark contrast to the week before and their win over the Highlanders.

In Christchurch, their error rate was abysmal. There was also indecisiveness and poor decision-making. That wasn't the case the week before. Should they be concerned? It's a long season but the teams that make the playoffs are consistent in terms of their performances; they don't fluctuate much. Regardless of how you break down the Blues' performance - victims of rotation, poor attitude, a good opposition - the concern is that drop-off in performance. They cannot afford to do that week-to-week or they will fail to make the playoffs.

For me it was a good "intent" display from the Crusaders. They showed attitude and confidence in turning down kickable points to go for scrums, where they were extremely dominant. They're not there yet and they probably know that. I don't think they've quite worked out their game plan but they are probably playing within themselves. Their attacking dynamic will change when Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg and Robbie Fruean return.

For now they are playing a forward-oriented game; plus trying to get ball to Nemani Nadolo as much as possible. But there are encouraging signs.

This weekend showed how close this competition could be. The Lions beating the Chiefs in Hamilton was an upset, and they have always been difficult to beat at Ellis Park, never mind how they're playing now. The Currie Cup champions will be a real threat this season because they rolled a good Chiefs outfit.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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