Blackadder relieved with win

Todd Blackadder (Getty Images)
Todd Blackadder (Getty Images)

Wellington - The pressure on Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder was lifted just a little with Tom Taylor's last-gasp penalty handing his side their first victory of the Super Rugby season, but it is a different story for former team mate Mark Hammett.

Both Hammett and Blackadder are widely considered by fans, the media and pundits in rugby-mad New Zealand to be the two coaches most likely to be looking for work should they not produce results this season.

The seven-time champion Crusaders scraped to a 14-13 victory over the Stormers with a performance that lacked any real cutting thrust or brutal efficiency so often associated with the Christchurch-based side.

"It was ugly and we didn't play too well but we're happy," All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg told reporters after the win.

"We're a long way off where we want to be.

"This (the win) is huge.

"Three losses, it would have been a sad Sunday."

Hammett's Hurricanes, however, did slump to their third loss with a muddled display in a 29-21 defeat the Brumbies on Friday that local media variously described as 'limp', 'lacking conviction' and 'without a redeeming feature'.

The team had returned home from two matches against the Sharks and Stormers in South Africa, the latter a narrow 19-18 loss and there were hopes the Wellington-based side could get their campaign on track against the Brumbies.

However, they failed to string together any consistent pressure by turning over the ball too often and seemingly lacked any attacking spark that has run counter to the 'X-factor' associated with previous Hurricanes teams.

That lack of 'X-factor', despite having 10 All Blacks and three Samoa internationals in the squad, may have contributed to a poor crowd figure of just over 8 000 on Friday - a far cry from the crowds of around 28 000 when the team were predictably unpredictable in their approach, though also inconsistent.

Hammett's goal when brought to the franchise from an assistant role with the Crusaders was to revamp the Hurricanes and give them the focus and consistency needed to challenge for titles, instead of being content with a semi-final exit.

Their title challenge, however, could now be effectively over and they have virtually got to the point where every game is 'must win' after just three rounds of the competition.

Four of the six teams to make the playoffs last season only lost four games while the lowest ranked post-season team, the Cheetahs, lost six games and ended with 54 points.

Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said the players were well aware of the pressure Hammett was under, given the fact the highest the team has finished in his three seasons in charge so far was eighth in 2012.

"He knows it," Smith told reporters after the Brumbies' loss.

"He would be the first to admit this is the environment we play in.

"We have to live with that, but it's a whole team. It's not a coaching thing at all.

"It's a pretty tricky recipe getting rugby right and some teams have it and don't know why they have it and when you don't have it you have to search for it and that's all we can do.

"There's a long way to go and this is a good team and we have time to show that."

Hammett's team face the Cheetahs next Saturday in Wellington with the entertaining Bloemfontein-based side not playing anywhere near the level they did last year.

The former All Blacks hooker, who used the word "disappointed" several times in his post-match news conference following the Brumbies game, is sure the team can turn around their season.

"We have had a South African trip and played the finalists from last year, so we have to keep things in perspective," he said.

"We're certainly not out of it."

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