Canes pain for Blues

Blues pow­er­less to stop Hur­ri­canes go­ing top with ninth win in 10 games

Weekend Herald - - Sport - Pa­trick McKendry at Eden Park

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)

Half­time: 14-8

Pic­ture: Getty Images

Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der scored one of the five Hur­ri­canes tries last night.

Photo / Getty Images

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.

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