Super Rugby round nine
Kirwan expects further improvement from Blues
April 14, 2013
Charles Piutau makes a break in an impressive performance from the Blues © Getty Images
With 87 points scored in their previous two performances alone, many expected the Hurricanes to bring much more against the Blues on Saturday.
It was humbling stuff for Mark Hammett's men, who were held to single digits for the first time in 22 months during the 28-6 loss.
Seeing this Hurricanes squad go down four-tries-to-none is a rarity, in fact the last time Wellington fans suffered a similar defeat was in 2008 against New South Wales Waratahs. The Blues had obviously done their homework.
"We had to improve our defensive line and the speed into contact, and we've been working very hard on that," coach John Kirwan said.
"I think tonight we saw some pretty special team defence and finishing it with some good hits. If [we] want to survive in this tournament, that's what we need to do."
The battle certainly lived up to his hype. No-one could have faulted the passion of either side, which contributed to one of the more physical encounters of the season.
Wing Frank Halai ensured the 23,000 crowd at Eden Park were in good voice with devastating carries and uncompromising defence. He now leads 30-0 in his sideline battle with Savea. Francis Saili epitomised the heart of the home side, after taking a pair of whip-lashing hits from the Hurricanes best he refused to go down, even when a knee injury looked to have ended his evening.
Still, Kirwan will no doubt spend next week's bye working to eradicate a number of sloppy handing errors that were often an anticlimax to some otherwise scintillating play.
"We ticked off a lot of boxes that we haven't been getting right in the past," he said. "We're still not the finished product, we've still got a lot of hard work to do but I think this is a really big step in the right direction, especially defensively. I think we can play better, I think we can play a lot better. I think we left a lot of tries out there and I think we need to get a lot more disciplined around ball retention. It doesn't stop; we're a long way from where we want to be."
The Hurricanes have just five days to lick their wounds before hosting Western Force on Friday. That challenge will not be underestimated after the Crusaders slipped over in their "banana skin" match in Perth, also on Saturday.
Captain Smith expects his men to bounce back but said they must persist with the game plan, especially when things start going wrong.