Ngani Laumape sure left an imprint in his likely final dance for the Hurricanes.
Expect cries of ‘how did New Zealand Rugby let Laumape go?’ to ring out for many years yet as Laumape prepares to take his destructive talents to Paris.
In Wellington on Friday night, as the Hurricanes played probably their final match of the season with a record victory over the Reds, Laumape claimed the opening try – his 48th for the franchise – and proceeded to bust tackles for fun during the remainder of the contest against the Super Rugby AU champions.
Losing Laumape at 28 years old seems a major mistake given New Zealand’s thin midfield stocks and his performance against the Reds, which included a try assist to talented emerging prospect Ruben Love, did nothing to dismiss that notion after making 14 carries, 92 metres and breaking 12 tackles.
Jordie Barrett’s regular injection from fullback and Du’Plessis Kirifi’s presence at the breakdown proved other prominent factors for the Hurricanes – as did two dubious second half yellow cards to Filipo Daugunu and Bryce Hegarty, the latter including a questionable penalty try.
After leading 10-7 at halftime the Hurricanes blew the Reds away with five second-half tries, including a double to Dane Coles off the bench, to claim their fourth victory in the transtasman competition and temporarily move top of the standings.
Despite securing a treasured bonus point, with the Highlanders, Blues and Crusaders all contention for the final, the Hurricanes are likely to rue their loss to the Brumbies in Canberra last week.
The main concern for the All Blacks from this match will be the way Ardie Savea gingerly hobbled out of the match in the 50th minute after potentially tweaking the same knee he recently returned from. With All Blacks captain Sam Cane already out until the end of year tour, Ian Foster will now be sweating on Savea’s fitness.
The tale of the first half was the Hurricanes living off scraps of possession and turning turnovers into lethal counter attacks. Unfortunately for the locals, too often these sweeping raids resulted in blown tries with three clear chances squandered.
Laumape, after claiming the opening try, dropped the ball on his knee over the line in Filipo Daugunu’s try-saving tackle after beating two defenders. Julian Savea was next to lose the ball in contact and deny Barrett. And Wes Goosen’s pass – after his break down the touchline – just eluded halfback Cameron Roigard with the line open.
While the Hurricanes had little ball their physical rush defence, with Asafo Aumua leading the charge, paved the way for dominance at the breakdown where Kirifi and Savea were hugely prominent over the ball.
The Hurricanes scrum, however, was on the back foot throughout and they struggled to contain Reds halfback Tate McDermott, one of the most influential players on the park.
McDermott’s ball playing around the fringes and snipping running game caused the Hurricanes all sorts of problems. It was no surprise he scored the Reds’ first try with another burst off the scrum five metres out after Tyrel Lomax was sent to the bin – perhaps fortunate to only receive a yellow card – after he made direct contact with Feao Fotuaika’s head.
With Lomax in the bin, the Hurricanes conceded seven points to three.
While McDermott starred for the Reds, Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou had a match to forget with ball in hand after he was penalised for an early double movement and lost the ball lunging for the line on another occasion.
In his farewell match hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa scored the Reds’ only second-half try to conclude a disappointing campaign from the Australian champions. One win in Townsville, when the Chiefs conceded a red card, from five attempts is a poor return that does not reflect well on Australian rugby.
Hurricanes 43 (Dane Coles 2, Ngani Laumape, Ruben Love, penalty try, Devan Flanders tries; Jordie Barrett 4 cons, pen)
Reds 14 (Tate McDermott, Brandon Paenga-Amosa tries; Bryce Hegarty 2 cons)
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