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Blues hold off Hurricanes in dying moments to take top spot in Super Rugby

By Ned Lester
Caleb Clarke of the Blues. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

It was a top-of-the-table clash that headlined round 12 of Super Rugby Pacific, and Auckland came out in force to support their Blues against the Hurricanes.

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Eden Park was packed after the most presale tickets for a Blues game in 10 years, and their fans were treated to a dramatic contest and ultimately, the top spot on the competition table after a nail-biting finish.

Billy Proctor, Caleb Delany and Tyrel Lomax were late scratches for the Hurricanes, meaning Pasilio Tosi, Justin Sangster and Bailyn Sullivan were promoted into the starting XV.

The Blues looked dangerous and got right to the Hurricanes’ try line in the opening minute, even getting over the line just two minutes in. The effort was initially ruled held up, then the referee spied the ball on the line and changed his mind, only for the TMO to rule it a double movement.

The play was called back to a penalty the way of the Blues and this time Bryce Heem powered over the line from short range.

A powerful punt from Jordie Barrett on a penalty landed the Hurricanes a lineout deep in Blues territory, and from there, the dominant forward pack went to work. It was captain Brad Shields who produced the powerful finish to get the five points. Unlike Harry Plummer on the Blues’ earlier effort, Brett Cameron failed to convert, leaving the teams separated by two points.

Bailyn Sullivan produced the first major line break of the game and was cut down by his brother after running 20 metres.

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The Hurricanes were threatening off that break but when Josh Moorby dived for the corner, Caleb Clarke pushed his opposite into touch.

More desperate defence was needed from the Blues moments later as Ruben Love found himself collecting scrappy ball in space, but was chopped down by Harry Plummer short of the try line.

The hosts had their first attempt at an exit charged down and while they found more success with their second, Brett Cameron found space in the backfield and placed an accurate kick which put Plummer under pressure, forcing the Blues first five-eighth to hurry a kick into touch.

Play remained largely in the Blues’ half as the 20 minute-mark arrived. Then, Zarn Sullivan went down in a heap of pain with a non-contact injury and was helped from the field.

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The Hurricanes’ strong ball carriers were up to their usual tricks in the contact, winning collisions and making metres. The Blues’ defence was patient though and found opportunities to apply pressure of their own.

Hoskins Sotutu made a break but before the Blues could capitalize, an upright clearout from Akira Ioane made contact with TJ Perenara’s head and saw the All Black loose forward yellow carded.

Accurate kicking from Ruben Love and a linebreak from Bryce Heem saw play go coast to coast and despite the one-man deficit, the Blues were able to get over the line through Cole Forbes.

The conversion from Plummer saw the hosts get the maximum reward after a gamble of going to the lineout instead of taking the three points.

With the half time siren blown, the Hurricanes were eager to have the final say and Josh Moorby wouldn’t be denied in the corner the second time around. Halftime score 14-10.

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The Blues’ ball runners were dominant to start the second 40, but much like their own defensive effort in the first half, the Hurricanes remained patient, absorbing the pressure and finding their opportunity to attack the breakdown.

The visitors returned the favour when they earned their chance with ball in hand, winning collisions and it was Peter Lakai who showed the power to finish the effort.

The Hurricanes’ scrum then made a statement and shortly after, the Blues brought Angus Ta’avao into the contest and made a statement of their own.

With the field position earned from that scrum penalty, the Blues again rolled their sleeves up before finding Mark Tele’a on the blindside touched down in the corner.

The Hurricanes opted for a three-point attempt with their next penalty in Blues territory, and Jordie Barrett obliged to make it a one-score game.

The Blues continued to apply pressure and an offside infringement by Duplessis Kirifi handed the Aucklanders a lineout in prime attacking position. Rolling up their sleeve once more, the Blues hammered away at the Hurricanes’ defensive line until Ta’avao got his hands on the ball and pushed over the chalk.

TJ Perenara wasn’t going to go down without a fight though, and Super Rugby’s all-time leading try scorer spied a gap after a lineout maul and squeezed through it to score the returning blow.

There was just one point in it following the conversion with 10 minutes left to play.

Another breakdown infringement from the Hurricanes allowed Harry Plummer an easy shot at extending that lead to four, and he continued his perfect record off the tee in the game.

90 seconds from full time a breakdown penalty from the Blues handed the Hurricanes a linout five metres out from the try line. That play was stoically defended but another advantage went the way of the Hurricanes and play continued after the full-time siren.

The game was ended when the ball was stripped by Sam Nock in the contact and the halfback booted the ball into touch, sending his team to the top of the Super Rugby Pacific table. Full time score 31-27.

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1 Comment
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Samuel 71 days ago

Wow ten years since they had a backing and more from the paying public I’d also mention that as a blues man and in walking distance to the garden I’d say that this team and Vern Cotter have got us dreaming beautiful thoughts and the merit is there from numbers 1 to 23 but we would like to think this is the new dna for the ABs and a pack weighing 940kg dry y not I hasten to add it seems patty has to stay fit cause he is the driver the main driver and they follow plus the pipe man H Plummer is conducting his own orchestra ….. Beethoven anybody

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Tim 5 hours ago
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