All Black Piri Weepu was given the perfect gift for his 100th Vodacom Super Rugby game, as the Blues shocked the Hurricanes 34-20 in their match in Wellington on Saturday.
The influence of new coach Sir John Kirwan and the behind-the-scenes acumen of Sir Graham Henry came to the fore as the young Blues side took on their more fancied opponents and then pulled away in the second half to secure the victory away from home.
Weepu added 14 points with the boot, but was the general behind the scrum as he marshalled his team to victory over his former teammates and celebrated his milestone in style.
Outscoring the home team by four tries to two, the game also delivered a debut brace for former All Black Sevens flyer Frank Halai as he made the move across from the shortened code, as the Blues confounded the stats by having less territory or possession for much of the game.
But it was the Hurricanes who started better, holding a 6-3 early lead through two penalties by Beauden Barrett before Halai added his name to the scoresheet in the corner after George Moala made the space by powering through Conrad Smith’s tackle.
The Canes responded quickly when they made inroads into the 22, then sent the ball wide for Julian Savea to go over in the corner, but Weepu brought the scores closer with a penalty on the halftime mark to leave the teams 13-11 at the break.
Charles Piutau opened the scoring to put the Blues ahead in the second half, but a contentious TMO call gave the lead right back to the home team as Halai was yellow-carded for deliberately knocking the ball dead.
The sprint for the line between Halai and Savea was narrowly won by the Blues winger, but it could have been argued that knocking the ball dead wasn’t intentional, as both players had one outstretched arm.
Still the television official Vinny Munro ruled a penalty try and Halai was sent for 10 minutes in the sin bin for his efforts.
Weepu then brought the Blues within one point with a well struck penalty, before Rene Ranger did his impersonation of a prop and burrowed over the line, with referee Glen Jackson adjudging the ball to have touched the whitewash as the Blues regained the lead.
The Hurricanes threw caution to the wind, but were robbed of the ball in the Blues' 22m area, and the counter started by Piutau stretched the length and breadth of the field as it eventually found its way to Halai to score.
Weepu added a final nail in the coffin with a penalty close to time to give the Blues a perfect start, and a great way to erase the memories of their horror 2012 season
Hurricanes – Try: Julian Savea, penalty try. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2). Penalties: Barrett (2).
Blues – Tries: Frank Halai (2), Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger. Conversion: Piri Weepu. Penalties: Weepu (4).