Rugby: Barrett dazzles the Blues

By Dylan Cleaver

Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith scores the winning try against the Blues. Photo / Greg Bowker
Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith scores the winning try against the Blues. Photo / Greg Bowker

When things are going badly, they might as well get worse.

The Blues rode a dominant scrum - boosted by the return of loosehead prop Tony Woodcock - and the boot of Lachie Munro to a six-point lead with time up. The game was theirs until the emerging heir apparent to Dan Carter's throne, Beauden Barrett slipped a gap to set up skipper Conrad Smith's on-the-hooter try. Barrett then coolly slotted the conversion to condemn the Blues to their fourth loss in five games.

The Blues' problems, including a shocking injury count, have been myriad. To those problems you can now add an inability to close out all-but certain victories.

The three competition points lost was a harsh burden on Pat Lam's motley crew, who had battled and scrapped to a lead, but rugby has little time for sentiment.

Early on it all looked so different as the hosts raced to a 10-0 lead.

Almost inevitably, the Blues try came from a man the Hurricanes faithful had become used to calling their own.

Say what you like about playing the ball, not the man, but if Ma'a Nonu's 44th Super rugby try wasn't one of his most satisfying, then he isn't human.

The fact it was secured on the back of some good work from Piri Weepu - another who wandered north from Wellington to join his mate following a torrid 2011 season in the capital under Mark Hammett - would have made it all the more sweet.

There were no histrionics, just one of those funky hand signals that no player seems to be able to score without performing these days, and a trot back to halfway.

Truth be told Nonu has probably become a bit tired of the fuss. The pre-match subplot to this game had become soap-operatic.

The new coach and the jilted second five-eighths. Winking at Nonu on the other side of the line was Smith, the man he had formed such an accomplished partnership with over the course of their Super rugby and test careers.

Smith got his name on the scoresheet on the stroke of halftime, too, but not before two of his teammates had beaten him to the scoring honours.

Andre Taylor finished a dazzling breakout try after Julian Savea had scythed through the line.

Blues fullback Munro's attempt to tackle Taylor left a lot to be desired, but as it turned out that was probably his least culpable defensive moment.

The visitors' second try owed everything to the fullback's poor decision making, with Taylor cleaning him up deep inside his 22m, Cory Jane picking up the scraps and pushing off a flustered Weepu to score in the corner.

Just when it seemed the Blues would sneak into the changing rooms in front, a Tim Bateman dink, some more Munro indecision and the poacher's instinct of Smith saw the Hurricanes grab the initiative.

Technically, it wasn't the greatest game of footy - the lineouts were an unholy mess and there were too many forced and unforced turnovers - but it was frenetic.

In Taylor and Savea, the Hurricanes possessed the most dangerous game-breakers on the park, but they were reduced to spectators for much of the second half as the Blues squeezed the life out of the Hurricanes pack.

They couldn't quite squeeze the life out of Barrett and Smith though.

Hurricanes 26

Tries: C Smith 2, C Jane, A Taylor
Cons: B Barrett 3.

Blues 25

Tries: M Nonu
Cons: L Munro
Pens: L Munro 6.

- NZ Herald

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