Perenara thankful for his mates
The beginnings were hardly auspicious.
Twelve-nil down within a blink of an eye and their scrum being demolished and/or penalised at regular intervals, the Hurricanes looked certain to lose to the Crusaders on Saturday night. The only question was by how many.
‘‘I thought we were just poor in the first 20, we didn’t show a lot of heart, especially in defence,’’ captain TJ Perenara said after the team somehow turned around and won 31-22.
‘‘They got two opportunities early and scored twice fairly easily and we were pretty disappointed under the posts with that. We understand in a game of footy that you might leak points, but the way we did that in that first 20 minutes was not the way we would choose to play our footy.’’
What happened next should encourage Hurricanes fans immensely. No-one gave a big rev up, there wasn’t an individual who did something freakish to paper over the cracks, the Crusaders didn’t suddenly go off the boil.
No, the Hurricanes got back into the game because a core group lifted themselves to the level that the Crusaders were playing at.
‘‘You saw the likes of Ardie [Savea], Brad [Shields], Ricky [Riccitelli], even guys like Ngani [Laumape] and Jordie [Barrett] stepped up in the midfield and showed some real heart and determination to make sure we had pride in our defence. The boys feed off that energy. When people get up and they’re making plays it’s infectious and I think those boys led really well for us,’’ said Perenara
Shields’ contribution was particularly important. Perenara’s not the type to back down from anyone; referee’s included. That’s where Shields recognised it was time for him to be the buffer between the Hurricanes and referee Glen Jackson.
‘‘I got a little bit frustrated in that game and [Shields] just came over to me and said that he’d take the reins for a bit and when you’ve got people around you that are willing to step up in big moments it makes your job a lot easier,’’ Perenara said.
A converted try to Barrett had the Hurricanes just 12-7 down at halftime. All the same it still seemed as if the Crusaders would kick on and win.
But second half tries to wings Julian Savea and Wes Goosen, along with flanker Vaea Fifita, kept the Hurricanes in touch. Barrett converted the lot from wide out and kicked a penalty, having been drafted in to play centre for the first time in Super Rugby when Vince Aso tweaked an existing groin injury in the warm-up.
Perenara, 25, first played for Wellington as a school boy and made his Hurricanes debut aged just 20, so he knows a little bit about playing on a big stage at a tender age. But, like many, Perenara looks at the 20-year-old Barrett and marvels at his composure.
‘‘I’m continually impressed with that kid. You wouldn’t think it was his first season of Super Rugby, you wouldn’t think he was 19, 20-years-old.
‘‘I’ve played a lot with his brother [Beauden] and I see a lot of those same characteristics out of those two men. They step onto a footy field and not much fazes them, regardless of what the moment is, regardless of what the score is.
Vaea Fifita of the Hurricanes scores during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders.