Canes pain for Blues
Blues powerless to stop Hurricanes going top with ninth win in 10 games
There is no shame in losing to this Hurricanes team, one now at the top of the Super Rugby table following this straightforward victory at Eden Park last night, but perhaps the most disappointing thing for the Blues is that visitors didn’t need to do anything special to win it.
It looks straightforward enough on the scoreboard — five tries to two for a bonus point — but the visitors weren’t on top of their game last night.
The biggest breakthrough for the Blues in their win over the Waratahs in Sydney last weekend was their ability to “flush” their mistakes, said coach Tana Umaga, but they were back worse than ever last night in Auckland and whether or not they were preying on their collective minds was beside the point.
Poor lineouts, poor discipline, an inability to stop the Hurricanes’ lineout drive. It added up to another bad night at the Blues’ former fortress where they haven’t won in 12 months.
Let’s get another horrible statistic over with: the Blues now haven’t beaten a Kiwi team in 16 matches.
It took 60 minutes for the Hurricanes to get a serious stranglehold on this match — which may have had the punter who placed $100,000 on them to win a little uneasy, but once Sam Lousi went over following a terrible defensive lineout from the Blues, the game for the Hurricanes, and the money, was as good as safe.
Hurricanes No 10 Beauden Barrett’s game was symptomatic of his team. It was a little rusty — his passing game in particular not quite there — but it was good enough.
And that’s the problem for the Blues. Opposition teams don’t need to be at their best to beat them, even at Eden Park these days. They just have to do the basics, make their tackles, show slightly better discipline and they will inevitably get the points.
Centre Orbyn Leger, at least, had something to celebrate — a first try at this level thanks to a slick interchange between Sonny Bill Williams and Stephen Perofeta and a lovely looping offload from the big No 12.
Prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi marked his return from a knee problem with a try from close range which allowed the Blues to re-take the lead after tries for Ricky Riccitelli and Gareth Evans.
Nehe Milner-Skudder’s try in the left corner meant that lead was shortlived, and Lousi’s try effectively confirmed the result.
It was a match which seemed to have a foregone conclusion given the respective form of both teams, but there were curiosities — not least the fact referee Jaco Peyper went off at halftime with an illness possibly related to an insect bite suffered recently in Australia.
And the Hurricanes, as stacked full of dynamism and firepower as they are, seemed determined to slow down the play at every opportunity in the first half.
It was a strange approach and most noticeable in the five minutes before halftime when they had a series of scrums on the Blues line.
Time passed at a glacial pace and the Hurricanes contrived to spoil a royal chance to add to their total when Brad Shields, who had a mixed game after his release to play for England was confirmed, detached from the set piece before the ball was out.
Matt Proctor’s try on fulltime wasn’t such a surprise, though. It helped the Hurricanes to their extra point — job done and money banked. Hurricanes 36 (Ricky Riccitelli, Gareth Evans, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Sam Lousi, Matt Proctor tries; Beauden Barrett 4 cons, pen)
Blues 15 (Orbyn Leger, Ofa Tu’ungafasi tries; Stephen Perofeta pen, con)
Nehe Milner-Skudder scored one of the five Hurricanes tries last night.
Second-five Sonny Bill Williams delivered a lovely looping offload to set up a Blues try but was otherwise well contained by the Hurricanes in his comeback from injury.