Agnew: Young guns blast Highlanders

The Hurricanes have four dynamic 97kg young guns who are making an explosive impact on the Super Rugby championship that opponents are struggling to contain.

They are Ardie Savea, 23, Jordie Barrett, 20, Ngani Laumape, 22, and Vince Aso, 22, who  are prospering under the coaching regime of Chris Boyd and John Plumtree.

The tigerish Savea is well known as a fast, attacking open side flanker. But it was his performance in the unfamiliar No 8 jersey that caught the eye in the Hurricanes latest 41-15 drubbing of the 2015 champion Highlanders in Wellington over the weekend.

It was his low slung attacks from the base of the scrum that repeatedly penetrated the Highlanders defence before All Black halves PJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett set alight their outside backs with a swift service.

It was Barrett’s brother Jordie who stole the night with a command performance, his perfectly weighted cross-kick giving Laumape the first try and his behind-the-back pass sending across centre Matt Proctor for another.

By game’s end Laumape and Aso each had two tries, the others falling to Proctor and the Savea brothers, Ardie and Julian.

While the 1.96m tall Jordie Barrett’s favourite position is second-five where he has shone for Canterbury and the NZ Under 20 team, Boyd is convinced his best spot is fullback.

Former Warrior Laumape is making a great fist filling the boots of World Cup hero Ma’a Nana as the Hurricanes second-five. Like Aso, who has played Mitre 10 for Auckland, he is a strong, nuggety player who relishes the contract and is quick to penetrate the gain line.

With the Rebels threatening a major upset, it took the competition-leading Chiefs a long while to overcome the threat they posed before getting home 27-14 in their least impressive performance of the season.

But blessed with a strong tight five that bested the Rebels and three others to give them a 4-0 win record, they remain serious contenders to add to the two Super 10 titles they’ve already won under coach Dave Rennie’s guidance.

Poor binding and body positions against the Crusaders rolling maul cost the Blues dearly in their 33-24 loss to the Crusaders after leading 21-5 at halftime. Same old, same old.

However halfback Augustine Pulu has consistently impressive and it was good to see George Moala run with his old power and determination.

With Steven Luatua currently suspended, Akira Ioane is not making the impact at No 8 his talent deserves.

A fantastic sevens player, Ioane’s high body position and flat-footed stance make him an easy target in the 15-man game where he has failed to penetrate from No 8.

At 1.93m and 113kg, he’s a big, strong player who is at his best charging onto a pass out wide a la Dane Coles rather than trying to brush off opponents from a standing start.

Kiwis had good reason to join the Irish in celebrating Paddy’s Day after Ireland’s 13-9 Six Nations win stopped England from beating the 18-test tier one record of 18 they share with the All Blacks.

That would have been a huge disappointment for their smart Aussie coach Eddie Jones. But Ireland are a smart, brave team, as the All Blacks learned when losing to them in Chicago last year before enjoying a hard fought redemption in Dublin.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author