A strong surge after they were awarded a fortunate penalty try coupled with a yellow card for an opposing player set up a comprehensive 37-24 Vodacom Super Rugby win over the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday.
The Blues did lose to the Sharks in the greater Auckland area last week, but that game was played at the North Shore stadium, something that is sure to be questioned by many Blues supporters after their team kept intact their impressive winning sequence at Eden Park.
They were fortunate to get a significant leg-up in the first half thanks to another of those dubious and far-reaching TMO decisions that are starting to become a cancer that blights the sport. The Hurricanes had started strongly enough, and a good driving maul try from an attacking lineout had put them 7-0 up before Blues flyhalf Ihaia West got the first points on the board for his team with a penalty.
The game turner came in the 15th minute, with a brilliant long range attack in which All Black centre Ma’a Nonu featured prominently eventually floundering when Hurricanes fullback Matt Proctor got a hand to an attempted Blues try-scoring pass on his own line. The referee called in TMO Glenn Newman, who confounded the New Zealand commentators by awarding a penalty try on the grounds that it was a deliberate tap and he ruled that the Blues would have scored.
It was a huge call as Proctor looked like he was trying to tap the ball backwards, and you have to ask what alternative he had. Should he have just let the Blues pass the ball? It was a split second incident that looked really difficult to make such a big call on, and to compound the concession of the try that saw them fall 10-7 behind, Proctor was carded.
The Hurricanes looked stunned by the decision, and rightly so, and the Blues by contrast looked energized. Suddenly the hosts were on fire and after another sublime hand to hand attack in which the Blues exploited the lack of numbers in the Hurricanes defence out wide a chip kick put centre Pita Ahki in for their second try and a 15-7 lead.
It remained like that for the rest of the half, with the Blues enjoying that eight point lead at the break, but they produced another quick double try burst in the 10 minutes after halftime to make it a long road back for the Hurricanes. The first came in the 44th minute and was rounded off by a strong surge from Jerome Kaino from 10 metres, taking several Hurricanes defenders over the line on his back, but the loose-forward had also started the attack with an impressive pick and go surge around a ruck near the halfway line.
Then a deft show of the ball gave George Moala the space to scythe through the Hurricanes’ defensive system to score a spectacular try that took the Blues to a 27-7 advantage after 48 minutes. The Blues’ pack was well on top by then in every aspect of the game, and lock Patrick Tuipulato continued to build on his growing reputation while all the Blues loose-forwards were fantastic.
The Hurricanes by contrast struggled to hold onto the ball and didn’t look as assured as they have in recent weeks, something caused in no small part by the pressure that was being applied on their flyhalf Beauden Barrett by the swarming Blues back-row.
One thing you have to say about the Hurricanes though is that even when they go down they provide spectacle, and while Tuipulato did cap his fine game with a try of his own, the Blues’ fifth, and West added another penalty, the Hurricanes played some attractive rugby as they scored three tries of their own after halftime to grab what could yet prove a crucial bonus point for them.
Blues – Tries: Lolagi Visiniai, Jerome Kaino, George Moalo and Patrick Tuipulato; Penalty try; Conversions: Ihaia West 3; Penalties: Ihaia West 2. Hurricanes – Faifili Levave 2, Julian Savea and Ardi Savea; Conversions: Beauden Barrett 2.