Jordie Barrett struck a late conversion as the Hurricanes inflicted a 29-27 defeat on the Blues in Wellington on Saturday.
Trailing by five heading into the last five minutes, the Hurricanes struck a telling blow when replacement hooker Asafo Aumua burrowed over from close quarters to level the scores up. It then fell on Jordie Barrett to take the match-defining conversion kick – the fullback stepped up to effortlessly nail the angled-touchline attempt to seal victory for his team.
This match was riddled with subplots: Beauden Barrett’s return to Wellington, his contest with brother Jordie, the Hurricanes’ continued show of faith in the out-of-form Ngani Laumape as well as the Blues’ continued selection of the Otere Black-Beauden Barrett flyhalf-fullback axis. What’s more, there was also the matter of the Blues inflicting loss on the Hurricanes in the return fixture earlier this season.
In a lively start to this much-anticipated fixture, the Blues opened the scoring with a penalty, but the Hurricanes made an early statement when Laumape waltzed through the defence and over the line.
The Blues needed one of their big-name players to step up and Beauden Barrett obliged. Up to that point, the fullback had been booed by the Wellington crowd. But in the 10th minute, he took a pass, kept the ball in both hands and danced his way through to score a scintillating try to put his team in front and silence the jeers.
It didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to reassert their dominance, but unfortunately they failed to make it count on the scoreboard as Jordie Barrett missed a penalty and had a try ruled out. And those missed chances were made worse when the Blues extended their lead at the first opportunity they had once they entered the opposition’s half with a try.
Going eight points behind didn’t sit well with the hosts and in the final five minutes of the half, they went on to score an unconverted try and a last-gasp penalty to level the score at 15-15 heading into the break.
The Hurricanes started the second half like they ended the first: on top and in control. Hooker Dane Coles scuttled over from close range. True to form, though, the visitors then proceeded with a double strike from forwards Akira Ioane and Kurt Eklund with just under 20 minutes to go.
Errors crept into both sides’ game with the referee dishing out several penalties.
But with the game heading to a close, it was the Hurricanes that seized control by working their way into a favourable position – a platform from which Aumua scored, granting Jordie Barrett to perform his heroic kick.
Hurricanes – Tries: Ngane Laumape, Reed Prinsep, Dane Coles, Asafo Aumua. Conversions: Jordie Barrett (3). Penalty: Barrett.
Blues – Tries: Beauden Barrett, Dalton Papali’I, Akira Ioane, Kurt Eklund. Conversions: Otere Black, Barrett. Penalty: Black.
Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara (c-c), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Billy Proctor, 23 Wes Goosen.
Blues – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Aaron Carroll, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Tolai Luteru, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 TJ Faiane, 23 Matt Duffie.
Photo: Getty Images