The Blues stormed to a 37-24 victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday to maintain their unbeaten record at Eden Park. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The result marks the Blues' sixth successive win at the Auckland stronghold in 2014. They are no longer in the play-off race, but have managed to stall the Hurricanes' surge for a top-six place.
A number of franchises, including the Bulls, will be pleased with the outcome in Auckland. The Blues were the more physical of the two sides. Their defensive effort in the first half was of the highest quality, and their finishing was a pleasure to watch.
The Hurricanes did enough in the dying stages to obtain the four-try bonus point. The upshot is that they have come away from this match with one log point.
No doubt they will feel hard done by after what transpired in the first half. Fullback Matt Proctor attempted to intercept a Blues pass near his own try line, but only succeeded in knocking the ball on. The officials determined that Proctor had deliberately killed the Blues' attacking movement. Proctor was sin-binned, and the Blues were also awarded a penalty try.
It was a terrible call. Television replays showed Proctor reaching for the pass in an attempt to catch the ball. It was, at worst, a penalty against the Hurricanes.
Unfortunately for the visitors, this decision cost them 12 points. Blues flyhalf Ihaia West converted the penalty try, and the hosts then punished the 14-man Hurricanes through a five-pointer by Lolagi Visinia.
The Hurricanes had every right to feel aggrieved, but they should have regrouped. As it was, their forwards continued to battle, and goal-kicker Beauden Barrett struggled for accuracy when presented with scoring opportunities.
The result was all but confirmed when the Blues scored two tries at the beginning of the second half. The Hurricanes rallied late in the game to score three more tries.
Nevertheless, the result is a big upset, and has given a few of the other teams a sniff of qualifying for the play-offs.
Blues – Tries: Penalty try, Lolagi Visinia, Jerome Kaino, Geoge Moala, Patrick Tuipulotu. Conversions: Ihaia West (3). Penalties: West (2).
Hurricanes – Tries: Faifili Levave (2), Julian Savea, Ardie Savea. Conversion: Beauden Barrett (2).
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 George Moala, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Albert Nikoro.
Hurricanes – 15 Matt Proctor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 James Marshall.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images