Ihaia West’s hop, step and dart attacking saw the Hurricanes Development XV topple a strong Japan A side 36-27 under lights at Levin Domain.
The mercurial Hawke’s Bay first five-eighth not only scored three tries, but had a match tally of 27 points, snuffing out Japan A with a penalty on fulltime on Thursday night.
West is a mercurial player and five minutes in, when the Hurricanes had a two-man o
verlap, his pass was intercepted by Japanese centre Daishi Muratawho, who galloped 75 metres to score.
On the 20-minute mark, West redeemed himself when he slipped over after waves of gold attacks. Nearby fire sirens sounded and, suitably, the lead see-sawed throughout.
West smoked in for two quick second-half tries, one a clever chip and snipe on the blindside.
“I got lucky because of the work of the boys inside me,” he said.
Maybe, but it finished the Hurricanes XV’s unbeaten 2018 season, five from five, pleasing coaches Darren Larsen and Aaron Good.
“Ï was happy for the Hurricanes region,” said Larsen. “Having non-contracted players around our contracted players was very good for them and their families.”
For Japan A, it was their first loss of their tour, having beaten Highlanders A 13-12 and Blues A 34-27.
This was a Hurricanes side hurriedly cobbled together. For instance, East Coast forward Patrick Allen had been autumn mustering on Molesworth Station in Marlborough the previous day. This game was a chance for the Hurricanes to fly the Heartland constituents’ flags and there were six such players in the 26.
Horowhenua-Kāpiti is one of the few unions who are shareholders in the Super Rugby franchise.
Like all Japanese teams, the visitors were very structured and when that was stretched by the Canes forwards, attackers of West’s ilk could apply the afterburners through holes and hop out of tackles, especially with the Japanese penchant for tackling low.
Because of the speed of the game, both sides were best with the ball. Japan A had the superior scrum and a more efficient lineout, which contributed to a 17-12 halftime lead. In particular, their three Tongan forwards and one Fijian, Anise Samuela, who has lived in Japan for 10 years, were full steam ahead and their line speed shut down all bar West.
The Hurricanes lost flanker Sam Henwood to concussion, but No 8 Blade Thomson, in his comeback 40 minutes, was the commanding figure in the first half.
Others to shine were halfback Richard Judd and second-five Peter Umaga-Jensen, while newly contracted Manawatū lock Liam Mitchell played 80. Otherwise this was West’s show.
Japan remained a threat until a few minutes from time, notably when former Highlander-Chief Robbie Robinson came on full of dash at first-five.
Hurricanes Development XV 36 (Ihaia West 3, Marcel Renata, Richard Judd, tries; West 4 con, pen)
Japan A 27 (Daishi Murata, Fetuami Lautaimi, Akihito Yamada, tries; Rikiya Matsuda 2 con, pen; Ryuji Noguchi con; Ryoto Nakamura pen)