Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Scratchy Hurricanes battle past Kings

The Hurricanes celebrate a try against the Kings. Photo / Getty
The Hurricanes celebrate a try against the Kings. Photo / Getty

Hurricanes 42
Kings 20

Of all the things the Hurricanes expected to happen against the Kings, its doubtful they imagined they would struggle to get the victory.

They might have had their doubts as to whether they would take the bonus point, which they managed at the death, but to end up fighting just to win all the way to 75 minutes, that was a surprise.

And not a good one. The Kings have to be acknowledged for their role in this unexpected turn of events. They came to life in a way few thought possible and strung together some good passages of rugby.

They defended with a bit of starch and structure, too and that put pressure on the Hurricanes that they didn't deal with particularly well. They made exceptionally hard work of things and never managed to provide any level of comfort that they were fully in control.

They just couldn't put the Kings away. There was plenty of movement and thought from the Hurricanes and they launched more than enough moves, but when the holes didn't open the way they wanted, the mistakes started to pile up and they couldn't get the scoreboard to tick over.

They had to resort to kicking their penalties to be sure of netting the win and that most definitely would not have been in line with their pre-match expectation.

The positives were more around the performance of individuals as opposed to anything the collective delivered. Ngani Laumape was strong. Hae was direct and he was full of energy. It would be silly to start comparing him with Ma'a Nonu but from where he was when he started the season to how he played against the Kings, he's on the right track at least.

What also became clear the longer the game went on is that Dane Coles has taken his game to another level again. The All Black hooker who missed the first few weeks with a sore calf looked like he was determined to invent a new role for himself as part hooker-part openside and part centre.

He has an incredible range of skills, phenomenal pace and deft hands. He had a couple of moments where he showed a bit of everything to ignite his team - a blast of pace, followed by an outrageous offload was standard fare.

Captaincy obviously sits well with and it was intriguing to see him positioned at the tail of defensive lineouts at times. That was testament to his pace across the ground and his ability to scrap for the ball on the ground.

Ardie Savea offered much the same skills and for the first 20 minutes, with the wind at their backs, it was a case of wondering just how many points the Hurricanes would score.

Their counter attack was deadly in that period - back to where it was last year when they were at their peak. Their back three are the ones who always get the credit in this area, but what made it flow; what made the Hurricanes so good at moving the ball into the right places was the contribution of the big forwards - particularly Vaea Fifita.

The Hurricanes blindside was all elbows and knees and found his way into space more often than not. He was a menace with ball in hand and with a bit more poise and control, he could become a good weapon.

Hurricanes 42 (N. Laumape, B. Thomson, A. Savea, V. Aso, B. Barrett tries; B. Barrett 4 cons, 3 pens)

Kings 20 (S. Sykes, L. Fouche tries; L. Fouche 2 cons, 2 pens)

- NZ Herald

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