Hurricanes Hunters review vs Blues A

I have been to the Hurricanes Hunters v Blues A game. I’ve posted some general comments and comments on Blues A in the Blues 2020 thread; here I’ll post a few general comments and say a few things about the Hunters.

It was a game of two halves, but not two equal halves. The Hunters had about 95% of territory in the first half and had most of the possession; I think the Blues only entered the Hunters’ half about 3-4 times, only to lose possession immediately and enabling the Hunters’ to enter the Blues’ half again. It’s a credit to the Blues’ defence that they didn’t concede more than one try, because the Hunters’ threw everything at them. Especially Toala and P Umaga-Jensen were very busy, but didn’t get much support from their wings, although Josiah Maraku scored the only Hunters’ try in the 12th minute, which Tiatia couldn’t convert.

That first half was mostly a half from the pack that dominated the Blues in the scrum and at the breakdown. They won quite a few turnovers. The line-outs - there were quite a few - went well (and made at least one steal), but they didn’t try the drive very often. Also, the closer they came to the Blues try line, the harder it was to dominate. The pick n go didn’t work. They couldn’t find a hole in the Blues defence. It seemed they started to run out of ideas. The Hunters came close to scoring a few times, but then someone dropped the ball, knocked it on or threw it straight at a Blues player, leaving the Hunters with a miserable 5 point lead at the break. Based on how that first half went, the Hunters should have led at least by 15-20 points, but ball handling let them down (the Blues can take some credit for that) and they were probably too impatient.

In the second half in all turned to custard. The more players were subbed, the more downhill it went. The defence, which wasn’t tested as much in the first half, started to turn into Swiss cheese in the second and the Blues scored 5 unanswered tries. I had a strong impression that the bench was a big step down from the starting XV.

All in all, the Blues definitely deserved their win!

About some individual players:
Riccitelli and Tolai had an interesting battle. While Riccitelli and his fellow frontrowers had the upperhand in the scrum, I saw Riccitelli getting tackled hard twice by Tolai and both didn’t escape unharmed from the second; Riccitelli appeared with a nice shiner after the break. The starting forward pack went well in that first half, esp Mitchell. When the subs came on, the skill level dropped noticeably though.

As to the backs, no one really impressed, although both Toala and P Umaga-Jensen tried hard; PU-J butchered one good try-scoring opportunity (knocking the ball on over the try line). Tiatia had a quiet game, and only came close to a break once or twice. Both wings aren’t SR level (yet).

Marshall had a good kicking game, but just isn’t a 10; he’s a fullback and shouldn’t be used as a 10. His game management is not of SR level. Taumateine had a good game, but got injured just after half time and had to leave the field (leg injury, don’t know how serious it was).

Finally, to answer @Canes4life question:
Frank Lochore played at lock for Napier Boys, but is more a lock/loosie type of player. Not tall enough for a SR level lock IMO. When he came on in approx. the 65th minute, he replaced one of the loosies. If I try to rank today’s locks or lock-loosies from tallest to shortest, than you’d probably have something like Liebezeit - Mitchell - Plummer - Lochore.

Full time: Hurricanes Hunters 5 - 31 Blues A (HT: 5 - 0)

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