The Hurricanes scored three second-half tries to claim a 29-24 victory over the Blues in a dead-rubber match in Wellington on Saturday.
Neither side was able to gain too much from the match, with the Hurricanes having already secured fourth place and resting their All Blacks, while the Blues were already out of playoff contention.
It would have pleased All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that Sonny Bill Williams got through the full match, looking in fine fettle in his first start since early April. Williams also formed a centre combination with Ma’a Nonu for one of the first times this season when the veteran came off the bench in the second half.
The Blues raced into an early 10-0 lead thanks to a well-worked try from centre Tanielu Tele’a to go with a penalty from Otere Black. Caleb Clarke and Melani Nani added tries in the final 10 minutes of the first half, but the Hurricanes were able to open their account moments before the break when Peter Umaga-Jensen finished off a linebreak from Danny Toala.
The Hurricanes dominated the second half, with replacement back Fletcher Smith scoring a try before setting up big lock Isaia Walker-Leawere to bring them within seven points of the lead. Umaga-Jensen grabbed his brace to put the Hurricanes ahead for the first time in the match with 15 minutes to go.
Young flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop added a penalty in the final 10 minutes to take the Hurricanes out of touching distance.
Hurricanes – Tries: Peter Umaga-Jensen (2), Fletcher Smith, Isaia Walker-Leawere. Conversions: Jackson Garden-Bachop (3). Penalty: Garden-Bachop.
Blues – Tries: Tanielu Tele’a, Caleb Clarke, Melani Nani. Conversion: Otere Black (3). Penalty: Black
Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Richard Judd, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Kane Le’aupepe, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Jonah Lowe.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Dalton Papali’i, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Hisa Sasagi, 18 Lua Li, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Josh Goodhue, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Ma’a Nonu.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images