Mangatainoka - A brace of tries by Blues winger Rene Ranger saw his team clinch a thrilling 19-17 victory over the Hurricanes in a pre-season game.
Playing on a farm in the small Wairarapa community which is made famous by the presence of popular beer brewery, the game had a sell-out crowd of 8000 in cold and rainy conditions. The Blues were behind 17-12 with 10 minutes to go before replacement Taniela Moa scrambled over the line to score the winning try.
The Hurricanes scored through prop Anthony Perenise, halfback Chris Eaton and centre Charlie Ngatai while flyhalf Willie Ripia landed one conversion.
Blues head coach Pat Lam said he was thrilled with his team’s first hit-out of the season.
“I was very pleased with how the boys played today,” Lam told the Blues website.
“They’ve worked really hard during the pre-season but you need to transfer that onto the field which they I thought they did today.
“Stephen (Brett) and Alby (Mathewson) controlled the game well in the first half and Dan (Kirkpatrick) came on with Chris Smylie and Nela (Taniela Moa) in the second half and directed well. The leadership of Joe Rokocoko was also really good and the key guys really stepped up today.”
It was the first time Mangatainoka had hosted such a high profile sporting event in half a century and Lam said bringing Super Rugby to the local community was a brilliant initiative.
“It was a fantastic occasion, there was a lot of rain down here but it was a full house and a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of. I thought both teams came out and played really well and we were able to bring some of the structures that we’d been working on into play.”