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Hurricanes make a statement with a clinical win over Blues in Wellington

By Finn Morton
Cam Roigard of the Hurricanes talks to his teammates during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between Hurricanes and Blues at Sky Stadium, on March 09, 2024, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Hurricanes have kept their undefeated start to the Super Rugby Pacific season intact with a clinical 29-21 win over the Blues at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Saturday evening.

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Without Jordie Barrett, who has been suspended for three weeks, the men from the capital came to play as they ran in four tries to the Blues’ three.

Fullback Ruben Love was especially brilliant, while the Blues were made to pay after rolling the dice with a 6-2 split on the bench after two outside backs left the field early.

Both teams put their undefeated records on the line as Blues playmaker Stephen Perofeta got the New Zealand derby underway at about 7:05 pm NZT on Saturday evening.

The match was a bit of a seesawing affair to begin with. While the Hurricanes may have looked more threatening overall, it was the Blues who risked breaking the game open early on.

Fullback Zarn Sullivan broke through the Canes’ defensive line with a sensational burst from around midfield, with AJ Lam also getting rid of Rubem Love as the visitors charged into the 22.

But the scores remain locked at nil-all as the Blues turned the ball over. That was a mistake the Hurricanes made sure to make the most of during the rest of the first term.

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The Hurricanes kept the Blue parked deep inside their own half of the field, whether that be on the back of their lethal running game or their clinical accuracy off the boot.

Eventually, the hosts struck first with wing Josh Moorby crossing down the right flank. Playing with an advantage, Brett Cameron found Ruben Love with a clever kick before spreading the ball wide.

Moorby, who is probably more well-known for playing in the No. 15 jersey for the Hurricanes, reaped the rewards of a brilliant Love cut-out pass to score in about the 14th minute.

But to make it worse for the Blues, Zarn Sullivan and AJ Lam – the players who linked up on that impressive break only minutes before – both left the field for HIA’s. They wouldn’t return.

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The Blues were on the back foot but had a chance to make amends inside the red zone. They needed a spark, and No. 8 Akira Ioane looked to make that happen with a series of meaningful carries inside the Hurricanes’ 22 shortly after.

But after Stephen Perofeta coughed up the ball about a metre out from the try line. They had an advantage, though, but after opting for a tap, turned over the ball almost immediately.

Crisis averted for the Hurricanes. The hosts won a penalty at the scrum, too, which saw them relieve pressure even more and continue to take hold of the momentum in this fixture.

The Hurricanes went up the other end and, on the back of an efficient maul at the set-piece, spread the ball wide for Moorby to score another.

Much to the delight of the Wellington crowd, the Hurricanes were leading 14-nil.

But their joy soon turned to pain as Blues wing Mark Tele’a ran away for a much-needed try against the run of play. It was an intercept that the visitors needed.

The Blues only trailed by seven, but a late Brett Cameron penalty saw the hosts take a 17-7 lead into the half-time break. The Hurricanes were well and truly in control.

“I thought we controlled the ball, or the game, well,” assistant coach Cory Jane said at half-time. “We were under the pump a bit there in the middle of the field… but we dug deep.

“We’ve just got to keep doing the same thing.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

Halfback Cam Roigard made a sensational break up the middle of the field, which saw him beat his opposite Finlay Christie, before being reeled in just short of the try line.

The Hurricanes spread the ball wide left and it was Rubem Love who sent wing Kini Naholo over for the Hurricanes’ third try of the evening.

But give credit where it’s due. The Blues couldn’t have responded any better with hooker Kurt Eklund crashing over for a try in the 47th minute. Perofeta converted the try to make it a 24-14 game.

There was a tense period of the match that followed. No points were scored, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for the red-hot Hurricanes.

But then, out of nowhere, Kini Naholo beat four defenders to set up Riley Higgins. It was Higgins’ first try in the famous yellow strip.

Hooker Ricky Riccitelli kept the Blues in the fight with a try inside the final 10 minutes, but it couldn’t stop the Hurricanes from recording their third win of the Super Rugby Pacific season.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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