With his blistering pace and sheer power-play, Ngani Laumape reminded rugby observers and his naysayers of his game-breaking quality, as the Hurricanes defeated the Blues.
In Round Six of Super Rugby Aotearoa, the clash in Wellington saw the ‘Canes overtake the Blues place on the ladder; as the Crusaders enjoyed their second bye round.
In winning 29-27, it wasn’t a huge margin yet it was a statement. One of intent, and of the sides ability to recover from early setbacks, to now be seen as a legitimate contender. And riding out front, hoisting his side on his shoulders, was their star center.
Ngani Laumape has, like his team, taken time to build towards a peak. Few will challenge that on Saturday night, but he was not a game’s best player. Jordie Barrett scored the winning kick. Dane Coles crossed the line, as did Reed Prinsep yet there would be little argument in saying that Laumape was not, the brightest star on the night.
💥 Ngani Laumape was terrifyingly good for the Hurricanes on Saturday night! We can't look past him for Try of the Round. #HURvBLU
Blistering pace and power of Ngani Laumape
The video evidence is undeniable. The speed, the change in direction combined with the direct power in which he runs through defenders, is awe-inspiring. Ben Lam displayed similar skills in 2018, as have others. Many other tall, powerful wingers or fullbacks have done so over the years.
But Laumape is not the biggest man in the backline. Jordie is over six feet tall yet he doesn’t hold the acceleration of his center. Vince Aso too, has been a try-scorer with great energy. Although with his experience on the wing, he is a finisher as much as a creator.
Laumape himself shows the abilities of finisher (in the video exhibit), and of creator. His statistics for carries proves that he is the ‘go to guy’ when the team needs momentum. Often driving past the gainline, his raw power means he is hard to take down. A key asset for a center who is less likely to kick – not a weakness, his style you might say.
And it was to this degree that post-match comments from the player, pointed to his desire to ‘make a point’. He spoke to SkySport and said “It’s good to be out here and to perform the way I did.
“A lot of people have been disrespecting my name and I wanted to come out and show everyone the way that I play. I’m happy with that. Let those people keep disrespecting my name, because I’m going to turn up every week.”
🗣️ "I'm just going to be me"
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 18, 2020
Reading between the lines, those people could be social media trolls, or New Zealand’s small and often geographically-based rugby media. Whoever it was, they burned a fire in Laumape that the blues felt the brunt of.
Hurricanes ready themselves to travel to Crusaderville
With good form and a fit group who are challenging each other for places, the next challenge lies South. Down in Christchurch, in Crusader-country.
Round seven lines up as a competition defining one. The numbers one and two teams face off. A rested Crusader team will invite the Hurricanes down to their home. Hoping that the last few outcomes continue the home town trend. 36 games unbeaten, holding a fortress at Rugby Park that was broken by the ‘Canes last in 2016.
Even with their heads high, no team can run out against any Crusaders one, too overconfident. They have done that before, and fallen short. More than most, as the Hurricanes have met the champions a number of times in playoff matches – games as close to Test matches, and the hosts triumph more often than not.
Will they this coming Saturday? What will be different? How can it be achieved?
No team is unbeatable. Every team can be usurped; twice last year, the Crusaders were bested. A draw too, so others have gotten close. So head coach Jason Holland must make his men ‘want to believe’. Want to try that little bit harder next weekend.
And in Ngani Laumape, they have one player who is likely to have that winning ability. Combine that with Ardie Savea, James Blackwell, Kobus van Wyk, Tyrel Lomax, and others. All men who can contribute to another massive effort to ‘knock off the Crusaders’.
That will make for a glorious fixture. When the skill of Laumape, Will Jordan, and all will illuminate the sport, as it steps further out of the cloak of Covid-19.
Crusaders v Hurricanes – Saturday, July 25. Orangetheory Stadium
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images