May 11 2001
“THE FINAL VOYAGE OF THE YELLOW SUBMARINE.”
The Blues and Hurricanes went into the last round robin match of the 2001 Super 12 season, the former out of contention, the latter needing a win to qualify for the play-offs. Sadly for the Hurricanes, it didn’t work out for them and the loss of this game meant they finished one place off qualifying.
“BY MATT MCILRAITH AT EDEN PARK
When the Russian submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea last year, it was eventually determined that the missile boat’s demise was self inflicted. At times in the wet last Friday night in Auckland, the Hurricanes resembled a yellow submarine. And, like the ill-fated Kursk, the Canes Telecom Super 12 aspirations were submerged in a watery grave that was largely of their own making.
To be fair, the visitors could have made the win their first priority – and been boring about it.
But that, as coach Graham Mourie ruefully reflected afterwards, is not the Hurricanes way.
They were going to try and score four tries in the slush, to get the extra bonus point, or be dammed trying.
So, in a rather bizarre way, the Blues, who’d already been dammed by all in sundry, actually benefited from being the team out of semi-final contention. The home side didn’t have to worry about the additional complication of an extra point, all that mattered to them was a bit of pride.
“It sounds pretty boring, but that’s exactly the way it was,” Blues skipper Robin Brooke said, in explaining his side’s relatively conservative approach of kicking for position and endeavouring to play the bulk of the game in the Hurricanes half.
Coach Frank Oliver further confirmed the thought process, by indicating that the side had chosen to train in the rain the night before just so they would be fully adjusted to the elements.
Maybe the Hurricanes should have trained in the rain too, If they had, they’d have known that their fancy and carefree football was doomed to fail in such trying conditions.
It shows how well they played, that it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes that the match really got away from them.
“We just didn’t adjust to the conditions like they did,” Mourie acknowledged.
“We discussed at halftime kicking the ball into the corners, but – Hurricanes being Hurricanes, they wanted to thrill the crowd!”
Unfortunately for the travelling Hurricanes funs, and there were plenty of them, their side provided more spills than thrills.
Although the night began promisingly, when No 8 Filo Tiatia rammed his way over from a lineout near the goal-line, the Blues were in charge by halftime after two calamitous mistakes.
The first saw the Hurricanes turn it over trying to run from within their 22m, which presented Blues fullback Hayden Taylor with the easiest try he’ll ever score. That mistake was compounded by another turnover in midfield, five minutes later. The Hurricanes might have got away with the latter sin, but for a wonderful passing interchange between Ron Cribb and Doug Howlett that ended with Cribb racing away for the try.
Having given away the easy points, the Hurricanes tried to recoup the lost ground early in the second spell, only to have
the normally reliable David Holwell lose his compass, which resulted in two handy penalty attempts being fluffed.
A switch to Daryl Lilley brought greater reward, but his goal was cancelled out within two minutes by James Arlidge, and the visitors were a spent force by the time a late scoring flurry handed Howlett two tries.
Brooke signed off from Super 12 with his first ever conversion, his team-mates with at least a little dignity intact after a
less than memorable campaign.
HIGH NOTE FINISH
One of the many Blues marketing pictures this year portrayed star winger Doug Howlett looking bewildered in the face of over-excited autograph hunters.
The same look genuinely crossed Howlett’s dial in the Eden Park tunnel after last Friday night’s 36-17 victory to the Blues, as he attempted to try and explain the side’s up and down Super 12 year.
“It feels like we should have played like that the whole season, but it’s good to finish like that,” said Howlett, as he again took on a bunch of eager young signature collectors.
Like most in the Blues camp, Howlett struggled to find the reasons why the Blues could not deliver this time round. But the 2000 All Black, who bagged two excellent second half tries against the Hurricanes, said the victory completed a very disappointing campaign on a high note.
“It’s a combination of things. We proved in glimpses this season that we had a good performance in us. To show it in a whole game is satisfactory.”
Howlett has been one of the Blues most consistent performers in 2001, illustrated by the fact he’s notched up six tries in a team that has only won four from 11 games.
He wouldn’t be drawn on possible All Black selection next week. He shrugged his shoulders expressing a lack of expectation saying, ‘whatever happens happens,” but a berth in Wayne Smith’s 30-man squad looks very likely.
Howlett’s off to freshen up this week, but said he’s looking forward to having a couple of runs for Marist in the Auckland club competition over the next fortnight.
MAN OF THE MATCH
It has been almost scandalous the way Doug Howlett has been left languishing on the wing this season, but given a couple of opportunities against the Hurricanes, the All Black flyer showed his class to take them comfortably.
The Hurricanes attempt to run from inside their 22m after a turnover, eight minutes before halftime. The move came unstuck dramatically when Paul Steinmetz lost it, presenting Hayden Taylor with a gift wrapped try. The Huricanes were always chasing from this point.
THE LAST WORD
We were playing for these guys (the coaches), because they’ve put in a lot of work this season for not much reward,’ Blues skipper Robin Brooke.”
From “Rugby News”, Issue 12 2001 pp.18-19.