One way or the other a Barrett had to decide the outcome. On this occasion, Jordie took the spoils.
With the scores level and time almost up, Jordie Barrett slotted a clutch sideline conversion as the Wellington crowd chanted his name to steal a 29-27 victory for the Hurricanes and trump older brother Beauden.
Jordie had the chance to slot the match-winner after Asafo Aumua’s 76th minute lineout drive over try broke the deadlock – referee Ben O’Keeffe seeing enough of a grounding under a heap of bodies to rule on field try, and television match official James Doleman not seeing anything to overturn the original decision.
The cool strike was another telling moment in what is a turning point of a season for the younger Barrett, who continues to come of age at fullback for the Hurricanes.
While the Barretts were the focal point of a match that delivered eight tries and lived up to the hype, Ngani Laumape was the star performer. The Hurricanes second five-eighth sent the All Blacks selectors a clear message with his damaging carries and strong defensive efforts to complement his opening try.
Beauden Barrett’s return to Wellington produced no shortage of storylines as he scored one superb try, had two Laumape nightmares and finished the match with a taped-up head. But it was his younger brother who had the final and deciding say.
The Blues stayed in the fight, while attempting to survive with minimal ball, but this loss significantly hurts their prospects. Two defeats on the bounce, after falling away in the final quarter in Christchurch last week, sees them drop to 3-2 and remain five points behind the Crusaders.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, continue their largely unheralded resurgence. After losing their first two games, including their opener at Eden Park, Jason Holland’s men have now recorded three victories in a row.
The Blues lineout drive was the best part of their game. Successive strikes from Akira Ioane and Kurt Eklund midway through the second half turned a deficit into a five-point advantage for the Blues and until the closing stages it looked as though that would be enough.
The Hurricanes, though, found the necessary character to respond at the death.
Blues openside Dalton Papalii led anther committed defensive performance and he also snaffled crucial breakdown turnovers and his fourth try of the season.
But for all their obvious progress the Blues now face a mental test to rise for the remainder of the season.
On his first trip to Wellington since leaving the Hurricanes, there was no keeping Beauden Barrett out of this match.
First Laumape stood Barrett up with a brilliant in and away to claim the opening try. Locals then let Barrett know their feelings about his deflection by booing his first touch.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 18, 2020
In a classic rocks to diamonds moment Barrett responded with a show and go to burst between TJ Perenara and Tyrel Lomax and score the Blues first try untouched.
Not long after Laumape was at it again by steamrolling Barrett before being brought down just short.
You could not have asked for much more from a first half that delivered four tries and one other to Jordie Barrett that was rightly ruled out due to a forward pass.
The Hurricanes controlled much of the ball and territory and enjoyed a one-man advantage when rookie Blues wing Emoni Narawa was yellow-carded in the 13th minute for laying in the ruck on his own line after Laumape ran over Barrett.
As it was last week against the Highlanders, the Hurricanes finishing left a lot to be desired at times. They again created ample opportunities through the likes of hard-running centre Peter Umaga-Jensen but often squandered these with frustrating last pass options or errors in contact.
Credit must be given to the staunch Blues defence which managed to hold on and not concede a point while Narawa was in the bin.
Nothing separated these two foes as they went toe to toe throughout this match as the lead changed several times.
It seems only fitting, then, that they now sit with the same records.
If this game taught us anything it’s that outside the Crusaders, any side can trump the other on any given day.
Hurricanes 29 (Ngani Laumape, Reed Prinsep, Dane Coles, Asafo Aumua tries; Jordie Barrett 3 cons, pen)
Blues 27 (Beauden Barrett, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Kurt Eklund tries; Otere Black con, pen, Barrett con)
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