Vodacom Super Rugby
Blues blow Hurricanes away
Lachie Munro (Gallo Images)
Auckland - A storming finish by the unpredictable Blues saw them pull off a bonus-point 41-17 victory over the Hurricanes in their Super 15 match at Eden Park Saturday.
The Blues raced to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter before allowing the Hurricanes to take control and with 20 minutes to go the lead had been cut to 20-17.
But with the game in the balance the Blues posted three converted tries in the closing stages to seal the outcome.
They scored five tries in all while the Hurricanes found the line only once despite dominating territory and possession through the middle stages in New Zealand's North Island local derby.
Blues captain Keven Mealamu said a motivating factor for his side was to produce a win for prop Tony Woodcock to mark his 100th Super game.
"We really wanted to celebrate that and what a way to do it. We had some tough times in the middle there but we stuck to our guns and we were able to get a bonus point at the end," he said.
Hurricanes hooker and captain Andrew Hore and midfield back Ma'a Nonu also marked their 100th game but with less to celebrate, particularly Hore who was in the sin bin when the Blues mounted their late charge.
"We fought our way into it and then the captain gets sinbinned towards the end and it got away on us," said a dejected Hore.
"It will be hard to hold my head up but I think we played some of the best rugby we've played all year."
It was not a memorable start for Nonu who conceded the penalty that put the Blues on the board first and then lost the ball in a tackle which led to Stephen Brett's try to have the Blues ahead 17-6 after 20 minutes.
But as so often happens with the unpredictable Blues they switch easily from being the dominator to the dominated.
The Hurricanes came back into the game, first with a try to prop Neemia Tialata after Nonu had opened up the Blues defence and then a penalty to Daniel Kirkpatrick to narrow the gap to three points.
A Luke McAlister penalty had the Blues ahead 20-14 at halftime but the momentum was firmly with the visitors who did everything but score.
The Blues were forced to fight off a torrid wave of attacks either side of halftime in which Kirkpatrick missed three penalties and both lock Jeremy Thrush (twice) and Nonu went close to the line but were denied tries by desperate defence.
Kirkpatrick kicked his fourth successful penalty to reduce the margin to three points for a second time before replacement Blues fullback Lachie Munro scored and converted to launch their closing attack.
With Hore off the field, a poor lineout throw by replacement Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles was snapped up by Alby Mathewson who ran 38 metres for the bonus point try before Jared Payne crashed over to put the result firmly beyond doubt.
Blues - Tries: Rene Ranger, Stephen Brett, Lachie Munro, Alby Mathewson, Jared Payne; Conversions: Luke McAlister (2), Munro (3); Penalties: McAlister (2).
Hurricanes - Try: Neemia Tialata; Penalties: Daniel Kirkpatrick (4).