Hurricanes wrap up in style with win over Blues
Chris Boyd was a happy man as his Hurricanes wrapped up their Super Rugby preparations with a quality 26-14 victory over the Blues in Warkworth, north of Auckland, yesterday.
Double that when you factor in that Boyd’s men came through a testing physical workout with no major injuries, leaving the coach with some big decisions to make as he narrows down his 27 to start the long journey to Pretoria on Friday.
It didn’t look promising when Canes prop Chris Eves was carted off on the stretcher in the second half, but Boyd reported at game’s end, after his side kept the Blues scoreless over the run home to overturn a 14-12 halftime deficit, that the knock was just a stinger, and he was expected to be fit to travel.
Boyd confirmed star All Black Beauden Barrett would jon the squad en route to South Africa (for the season opener against the Bulls, followed by the Jaguares in Argentina) but would not be considered to start in Pretoria.
‘‘We might use it as one of his All Black rest weeks yet, we haven’t decided on that,’’ he added.
The Blues did not escape quite so unscathed after putting in a promising first 40, but then struggled for much in the way of continuity and quality after halftime.
They lost three loose forwards to injury in Jimmy Tupou, Jerome Kaino (both leg knocks) and Dalton Papali’i, and coach Tana Umaga admitted that was a concern heading towards their season opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin next Friday. He brought both Murphy Taramai and Akira Ioane off early as a precaution, lest they be added to the toll.
The Blues will at least take some heart from the fact that after the first 40 minutes, when both sides had their strongest lineups on the field, they were able to eke out a 14-12 lead, even if it did take something truly spectacular from superstar wing Rieko Ioane to achieve it.
The home side has been guilty of spurning its gilt-edged opportunities early in the contest and had fallen behind 12-7 when Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara crossed from a short scrum after eight minutes and Matt Proctor had shown some nice speed and footwork to finish a break created by Eves and Sam Louisi just past the half-hour mark.
In between those strikes Blues wing Matt Duffie had got his team on the board with a seven-pointer via a beautifully weighted chipkick from his halfback, and skipper, Augustine Pulu. Duffie’s effortless explosion of speed to easily win the chase was a cheering sight for the hundreds of Blues fans who packed the rural ground.
But what followed just before the break had them positively delirious. Soon after Blues fullback Mealni Nanai had butchered a certain try when he couldn’t handle a pass on the bounce with the line open, Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape made an error in judgment when he put in a crosskick that was easily fielded by Ioane.
The big All Black wing then took off upfield in a beautiful jinking run that saw him turn Laumape inside out as he scrambled back as the last line of defence.
After halftime the Canes struck twice early on, via a Jonah Lowe intercept and a nicely taken try from big Murray Douglas (with an assist from Chase Tiatia), to spring out to 26-14, before things turned decided ugly, and the game broke down to a succession of errors and missed opportunities.
Blues wing Rieko Ioane scored a brilliant try right on halftime in his team’s Super Rugby pre-season game against the Hurricanes in Warkworth.