Hurricanes heap misery on Blues

By Daniel Richardson

Victor Vito of the Hurricanes is tackled during the round 11 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Blues at Westpac Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Victor Vito of the Hurricanes is tackled during the round 11 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Blues at Westpac Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

Hurricanes 35
Blues 19

In case you were wondering if it could get any worse for Blues coach Pat Lam, it has.

His side were outdone 35-19 by the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium tonight as they slumped to their ninth loss from 10 games this year in front of 11,624 people in Wellington.

The game shaped as a major one for both sides, but for vastly different reasons.

The Blues were in dire need of a win having lost eight of their first nine games this season, which had heaped pressure on the under-fire Lam.

Despite their best endeavours this year, they only had a 29-23 win over the Bulls in round three to show for their campaign before tonight's game.

The Hurricanes meanwhile, came in to the clash in 10th spot on the Super Rugby ladder having lost their last two games against the Crusaders and Chiefs respectively and a loss would've heavily damaged their playoff prospects.

In 18 previous Super Rugby encounters, the Hurricanes had only managed five wins against their northern rivals, with their last victory being a come-from-behind 26-25 win at Eden Park in week five.

Tonight's match marked the first time Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu had played at Westpac Stadium in a Blues jersey since their much-publicised departures.

Nonu looked lost at times in the Blues' backline and he lacked a decisive inside runner to feed off, while Weepu was handed the goal-kicking duties and got the scoring underway on the four-minute mark when he landed a penalty.

The Blues have may have claimed first points but the home side, who were playing their 207th game in franchise history, didn't wait long to answer back and their inspirational skipper Conrad Smith dotted down for a try in the 11th minute.

Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor began the game as the competition's joint leading try-scorer with seven five-pointers alongside Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo and the 24-year-old managed to add to that tally.

Taylor was his typical livewire self in the opening stages and scored the Hurricanes' second try just after the half-hour stage when he finished off a brilliant breakout after some sharp work from Cory Jane and 20-year-old halfback TJ Perenara.

For all their endeavour the Blues lacked shape on attack as they ran across the field from side to side and barely threatened what is a brittle Hurricanes' defensive line.

The Hurricanes had given up 270 points in their first nine games of the season _ the third most points per game after the Cheetahs and Rebels - yet the Blues could barely muster a line break.

The contest was dour at best and it was killed off when Julian Savea crashed over for the Hurricanes to give them a nine-point lead with about 20 minutes left.

Savea had earlier been denied a five-pointer down the left flank after the big wing put a foot in touch just before dotting down.

Hurricanes first-five Beauden Barrett was poor with the kicking boots but controlled the game well in general play during the second half.

Prop Reg Goodes, who had his start to the season delayed with a shoulder injury, became the 177th player to represent the Hurricanes when he came on for Jeffery Toomaga-Allen in the second spell.

The big front-rower was also denied a try after following up on a Perenara kick when the TMO didn't give the green light so it was left to Perenara himself to grab the bonus-point try in the 68th minute.

Benson Stanley grabbed a late try for the Blues but it did little to the game and even less for Lam, while Hurricanes lock Jason Eaton crossed for a try in the final minute of play.

Hurricanes 35 (Conrad Smith, Andre Taylor, Julian Savea, TJ Perenara, Jason Eaton tries; Beauden Barrett 2 pens, 2 cons) Blues 19 (Benson Stanley try; Piri Weepu 4 pens, Lachie Munro 1 con) HT: 16-12

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