Hurricanes and Crusaders leave Waverley without any big injury concerns
They came, they played, they left in one piece.
Winning wasn't important at Waverley's Dallison Park on Friday. The record will show that the Hurricanes defeated the Crusaders 33-27 in the Super Rugby preseason clash, but what counted was that neither side picked up any serious injuries.
The Crusaders probably looked the better of the two, particularly when fullback Israel Dagg had the ball in his hands. For the Hurricanes, there was enough to suggest they're in decent shape ahead of the defence of their Super Rugby title.
The only potential injury alarm was sounded by Hurricanes fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder. On at halftime, he lasted less than 20 minutes, wandering off after scoring a try.
"He just got a little tweak in a lower hamstring when he scored that try, so I think it was precautionary more than anything else and I wanted to give Jonah Lowe a bit of a go anyway. I think he'll be fine," Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd said.
The Hurricanes lost halfback Chris Smylie (hamstring) and prop Loni Uhila (calf) to muscle twinges prior to the match, but that was the extent of their injuries. The Crusaders emerged similarly intact.
"Two halfs, two different teams. No injuries of note, saw some great stuff and then lost our rhythm," Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson said.
The Hurricanes fielded two entirely different XVs in each half and that made a fairly big bearing on the result. The Crusaders' best combination of the day met the Hurricanes' weakest and that led to a 27-19 lead for the visitors at halftime.
It ought to be more but - as he's proving very adept at - Hurricanes first five-eighth Beauden Barrett hauled in an intercept and went the length of the field.
His conversion marked the final act of the first half and gave the score a less emphatic look than the Crusaders' dominance had deserved. It was also Barrett's cue for a spell.
Barrett and brother Jordie had done some decent things during their stint. As had left wing Wes Goosen, who was busy and scored two tries off the back of good work from Jordie Barrett.
Right wing Ben Lam was another Hurricane to make a good impression.
But the Crusaders dominated the scrums and lineouts and that allowed outside backs such as Dagg and Seta Tamanivalu to shine. Tamanivalu, having a gallop on the right wing at the All Blacks selectors' request, looks to have a bit to offer in that position, having previously made his name at centre.
Crusaders props Owen Franks and Joe Moody looked in great nick and their scrummaging was first-rate.
The second half was a less open affair. An Otere Black bust set up Milner-Skudder's try, before a bullocking Ngani Laumape run clinched victory for the home side near fulltime.
Robertson liked what he saw from Tamanivalu on the wing and said it could be a longterm option, particularly given how happy he'd been with Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue in midfield.
"In the backline we've got some depth and I just can't wait for next week," said Robertson.
Hurricanes 33 (Wes Goosen 2, Beauden Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ngani Laumape tries; Beauden Barrett con, Otere Black 2 con) Crusaders 27 (Seta Tamanivalu 3, Ben Funnell, Israel Dagg tries; Richie Mo'unga con). HT: 19-27.