ANALYSIS: Many saw this Super Rugby Pacific makeup game as the perfect stage for Salesi Rayasi to stake his claim for a greater role in the Hurricanes going forward – instead his mate on the other wing stole the show.
There was no doubt about the standout individual in Tuesday night’s quick-turnaround, largely second-string clash in Wellington where the Hurricanes emphatically avenged their mega-upset defeat to Moana Pasifika in Auckland with a runaway 53-12 victory. And it was not Rayasi who has been a bit-part player for the Canes all season, and might just stay that way after an indifferent display in this one.
Not so Hurricanes right wing Wes Goosen who was simply magnificent as he reminded one and all that he may not be a headline act in New Zealand rugby, but is more than capable of coming up with a lead performance. In many ways men like Goosen remain the lifeblood of our game – experienced, consistent and dedicated to the cause. And always in the sights of those offshore poachers.
Goosen’s first half against the Moana men was off-the-charts good, with the tone set from the kickoff when he received ball and took off on a run up the right touchline that earned an early penalty, and eventually the first of four tries via the lineout-drive route.
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The 26-year-old South Africa-born wing was a one-man wrecking ball for the Canes as they ran in three first-half tries for a 22-5 halftime advantage. Goosen scored one of them (with a nice finish in space) and ran for a monster 105 meters over the first 40 minutes as he tore up the Moana defense with eight defenders beaten and four clean breaks on just seven carries.
He was not a lone ranger by any means – Ruben Love was excellent at fullback, running for 70 meters (on five carries) of his own, Bailyn Sullivan made some big runs in midfield and TJ Perenara enjoyed himself with a busy display, and a try that took him to within two of the all-time Super Rugby record – but it was the sort of performance by Goosen that should earn him the nod for some of the bigger clashes to come.
Goosen’s second half was quieter (just 13 more meters as the ball largely went the other direction), but the job was done over the first 40 when the match was much more in the balance. His footwork, his strength and, of course, his turn of speed were all at a high level, and would have earned some big ticks in the coaches’ notebooks.
It was an impressive effort from the Hurricanes as they snapped a three-game losing streak to secure their third victory of the season. They’re way better than that record and can still save something with a bit more luck than they’ve had thus far.
Their forward effort was especially encouraging. Yes they were mostly backup men, and it was only Moana who have been handed a horror schedule amid all their challenges.
But the sight of the Canes forwards rumbling over for a quartet of tries off the lineout drive, and another off a pushover scrum (against the feed) was indeed heartening. They were aspects of the game that will come in handy indeed as they look to make a late run up the standings.
Moana Pasifika are brave. That is not in dispute. They compete every game they play and their willingness to engage, to be physical, and to put their bodies on the line cannot be faulted. This despite a nasty schedule, and what has seemed like a season-long dance with Covid.
Where are they are prevented from being more competitive is in three important areas: skill execution, set-piece work and discipline.
On Tuesday night their set-piece work was again short of the mark: their lineout misfired, their defense of the drive was even worse, their handling was a little haphazard and though their discipline was better, they still gave the Hurricanes too many chances to convert the set piece into points.