Written by Max Sharp.
While a lot of rugby fans will be talking about the Blues' thumping over the Reds at their Eden Park fortress, what is arguably the biggest talking point from this weekend so far, is the Hurricanes' comeback against the Waratahs, at the death. After being outplayed at the rucks and scrums in the first half, the Wellington-based club was able to revive their game and win by 22-18; despite being held scoreless 0-15 at half time. So, how did the comeback happen? As usual we'll run an analysis of the players from jersey 1 to 23 and see how the team went.
Hurricanes Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Xavier Numia (3/10)
Came off for tactical reasons after just 33 minutes. While 9 tackles is a brilliant effort in this time, Numia didn't show the urgency to get to rucks quickly, whilst he was on the pitch the Hurricanes also lost two scrums off their own feed. Pouri Rakete-Stones will likely replace him in the number 1 jersey next week.
Hooker - Asafo Aumua (6/10)
Didn't have a bad game, but wasn't too far above average. Aumua ran hard off 4 carries to get 36 metres, 2 defenders beaten and 1 clean break; though he didn't throw one lineout straight. 5 tackles in the first half before being replaced by Coles off the bench.
Tighthead Prop - Tyrel Lomax (3/10)
Lomax could, sadly, possibly be nervous over his position in the All Blacks. His 2 metres run were off just a single carry, while he hadn't matched Numia's defensive form - making 6 tackles. Was also replaced after 33 minutes, having had a bad game in the ruck and scrum.
Lock 4 - James Blackwell (4/10)
It feels wrong to criticise Blackwell because of the positive attitude he brings, but it wasn't enough. 9 metres off 5 carries, 3 passes and just 6 tackles from 80 minutes aren't the kind of stats Blackwell would have wanted, whilst he conceded a turnover in the lineout.
Lock 5 - Justin Sangster (8/10)
The 23-year-old former forklift driver packed a lot into his 57 minutes. Has natural talent, but worked hard, with 21 metres and 1 defender beaten from his 4 carries, 3 passes came off the lineout, while it was great to see the offload. Excellent defence with a team-high 13 tackles. Sangster has a big future.
Blindside Flanker - TK Howden (3/10)
He's young, so will learn from this less-than-ideal game. Howden only managed 2 carries in 52 minutes, running 10 metres off them. While he slowed the Waratahs' ruck ball, 3 tackles isn't enough. At 21 years old, Howden has time to improve and will grow into his body more.
Openside Flanker - Du Plessis Kirifi (8/10)
This was the number 7's best game in a long time. Kirifi made himself fun to watch on defence with 11 tackles and 2 turnovers, also cutting bad penalties out of his game. Bought his usual style of running, with 26 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 1 clean break from 5 carries. The big question is can he play like this more often? Cause I'd love to see that.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (10/10)
Once again, proved himself the world's best player. Savea's stat chart showed he had run 33 metres, beaten 4 defenders and made 1 clean break from 9 carries while making 8 passes, 1 offload, 12 tackles and 1 turnover. But also, one of those passes set Sullivan up for a crucial score. With just 6 minutes left on the clock, Savea then got up from being injured to score the winning try; staying on the pitch to close the game out. Monster.
Halfback - Jamie Booth (8/10)
Had a pretty tough start, but played far better after replacement props joined the pitch. Booth recovered from this start to pass quality balls, 1 offload and then ran 13 metres off his own 4 carries. Excellent defending with 12 tackles; tied for the team's second most.
First-Five - Aidan Morgan (5/10)
This was perhaps the toughest game Morgan has had, but we still saw the odd flash of brilliance. Recovered from the horror start to play 72 minutes and use them to make 8 good passes and 1 offload. Ran 20 metres and beat 2 defenders himself as well, though defence is never easy for someone as small as Morgan. He'll be better next time.
Left Wing - Salesi Rayasi (9/10)
Rayasi lacked some support from forward at times but still made his 11 carries effective, gaining 91 metres, 1 defender beaten and 1 clean break off them. Great to see the number 11 pass back inside 7 times as well, while giving 2 offloads. A debut for Manu Samoa awaits.
Second-Five - Jordie Barrett (8/10)
He's not a 12, but will do well wherever he is. Barrett's vision was great, 10 passes and 3 offloads gave a nice platform for Rayasi and Sullivan, while Barrett's team-high 15 carries were used to run 78 metres and beat 3 defenders. But seriously, please return him to 15.
Centre - Bailyn Sullivan (7/10)
Hardly had a handle on the ball in the first half but came to life in the second, with an important try and 62 metres from 7 carries. The high number of scrums reduced Sullivan's passes to 2 and tackles also to 2, would have a higher rating if he defended more.
Right Wing - Julian Savea (6/10)
A tough night for the 31-year-old former All Black, as it was such a forward-dominated match. Savea only got to make 26 metres from 5 carries, but did beat a defender. 4 passes and 1 offload back inside was useful, in the lead up to Sullivan's try. 7 good tackles too.
Fullback - Josh Moorby (5/10)
Moorby is one of the most talented Hurricanes but doesn't possess the same presence and awareness as Barrett from 15. Limited distribution opportunities, while only making 4 tackles. Only 4 carries, though Moorby did run 38 metres, beat 1 defender and get 1 clean break. Off after 57 minutes for Proctor.
Reserve Hooker - Dane Coles (7/10)
Didn't make too many contributions around the pitch but has valuable experience in the second half, which made for a better lineout. 6 tackles in 40 minutes isn't awful either, so credit to Coles for nailing every throw he attempted. Made 2 passes as well.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Tevita Mafileo (7/10)
Easily Mafileo's best game of the season. Though his 4 carries only lead to 1 metre, that opening try in the 42nd minute was vastly important. Managed 3 passes and though Mafileo made 6 tackles, like Lomax, his ruck speed and scrummaging prowess were both great.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Owen Franks (7/10)
A typical Owen Franks performance. He didn't bother to carry, but has far better ruck speed than a few years ago, having lost some body fat. Made 5 strong tackles and won every scrum off his own feed in 47 minutes. A true example of coming off the bench to do the basics right, he's no longer at test level, but is exactly the kind of number 18 the Hurricanes need.
Reserve Lock - Isaia Walker-Leawere (No rating)
On for Sangster with 23 minutes left and it probably isn't fair to rate him; Walker-Leawere made just 1 carry, 1 pass and 4 tackles.
Reserve Loose Forward - Caleb Delany (7/10)
Limited attacking opportunities with 2 metres from 2 carries in his 28 minutes, but was a very useful third lineout jumper and made 7 big tackles to push Waratahs players backwards. Would have liked to see him start over Howden.
Reserve Halfback - Cam Roigard (7/10)
The young 9 did great things for the Hurricanes in his 13 minutes and still racked up great stats. 13 metres and 3 defenders beaten from 4 carries, while delivering 10 passes and 2 offloads. Amazing to recollect the impact Roigard made in such few minutes.
Reserve First-Five - Jackson Garden-Bachop (6/10)
Only played 8 minutes but ran 17 metres and beat 2 defenders off 4 carries. Made 3 passes as well, taking advantage of how wide the match had opened up. Came off the bench and really made the most of his opportunities.
Reserve Utility Back - Billy Proctor (6/10)
Wasn't the most impressive from jersey 23, but his addition, pushing Barrett to fullback, was huge. Proctor defended nicely from the 12 channel with 7 tackles, distributing 2 passes. Made just 1 carry but ran 9 metres and beat 2 defenders from that.