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Super Rugby warm-up games produce surprises

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Friday, February 2, 2018    Getty Images

Crusaders fans will be a little nervous after their West Coast excursion saw the Hurricanes claim a 43-22 win in Greymouth.

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In Te Kuiti, the Blues did what they haven't been able to do in competition play for many seasons, beat the Chiefs 45-19, while in Queenstown the Highlanders welcomed Ben Smith back with a 55-29 win over the Waratahs.

If there was any consistency emerging from all three games it was likely to be a greater concentration on defence in the weeks ahead.

Rob Thompson grabbed a hat-trick of tries for the Highlanders but it will be the Waratahs, after their disappointments of last season, who will be frustrated by the outcome of the game. The Waratahs not only had the margin of defeat to be concerned about as they also lost Ned Hanigan to a knee injury that could have some consequences during the early stages of the season.

The Chiefs under new coach Colin Cooper will take plenty out of their loss but will have good cause to remind the Blues that the result that matters is when they do battle in the competition proper later in the year.
But for Blues coach Tana Umaga who acknowledged, as all the coaches would, that the real benefit of the game was finally being able to let players off the leash and to have some contact play after all the technical work from their build-up.

Down on the West Coast the Hurricanes blew out to a 36-5 lead at one stage before Scott Robertson's inexperienced Crusaders got some traction and closed things up a little with three second-half tries.

Being able to introduce so many new players to this level of play was the undoubted benefit for the defending champions but the Hurricanes demonstrated their genuine attacking potential which should have other sides wary ahead of start day.

Jonah Lowe also scored a hat-trick for the winners.

A common concern would be some of the goal-kicking which was well-down on the success percentage.