Vodacom Super Rugby
Blues hold off Hurricanes
Wellington - The Blues held off a late challenge from the Hurricanes to consolidate top spot in the Vodacom Super Rugby table with a 17-11 victory on Friday.
The Blues threw up some desperate defence as the home side rallied in the dying minutes, only sealing the game when Hurricanes scrumhalf Tyson Keats dropped the ball crossing the tryline after the siren.
The win was enough to put them five points clear of the Stormers, who face a tough task against the Crusaders in Cape Town on Saturday.
It also gave the Blues their second victory of the season over the under-performing Hurricanes after they won the New Zealand derby 41-17 in mid-March.
The Wellington side lie ninth in the table with only three wins for the season and could slip further if weekend results do not go their way.
Drizzly conditions in Wellington made the first half a dour affair, as both teams committed numerous handling errors and concentrated on grinding out territory to keep the mistake rate to a minimum.
A misfiring Blues line-out also gave the Hurricanes opportunities but the home side, looking to build on an upset win over the Reds last week, could not take advantage in a match which neither side dominated.
"It was one of those games where the conditions didn't help and we didn't play the first half that we would have liked to but we gained some momentum in the second half," Blue skipper Keven Mealamu said.
The Hurricanes went into the break down 9-3 but looked more convincing for long periods of the second half, as the rain eased and they went on the attack.
Lock Jeremy Thrush brought the game to life in the 55th minute, charging down a loose Blues kick, which a swooping Aaron Cruden offloaded to wing Hosea Gear, who raced away for the first try of the match.
Cruden missed the conversion but made amends minutes later, slotting home a penalty to put the Hurricanes ahead for the first time.
But their momentum stalled when Keats received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Alby Mathewson, with the Blues capitalising when Mathewson slipped through the Hurricanes weakened defence for a try.
The Hurricanes again threatened after Keats returned, spending the last minutes camped deep in the Blues' half.
The No 9 looked to have secured a try in the final play to give the Hurricanes the chance of kicking a match-winning conversion but a tackle from Blues substitute Chris Smylie jarred the ball free.
The Hurricanes face the Highlanders next week in Invercargill, while the Blues travel to Brisbane to take on the high-flying Reds.Teams:
15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Jayden Hayward, 12 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 John Schwalger
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Julian Savea, 22 Beauden BarrettBlues:
15 Jared Payne, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Lachie Munro, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saiili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Chris Lowrey, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tevita Mailau
Substitutes: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 James King, 19 Sean Tolwart, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Aaron Bancroft, 22 Sherwin Stowers