It wasn't exactly the master versus the apprentice, but TJ Perenara has shown he is clearly the premier No 9 in Hurricanes country.
The youngster produced a man-of-the-match display as the Hurricanes toppled the Blues 35-19 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington tonight (fri), after much of the mid-week press focused on Piri Weepu.
As word filtered in to the media of a possible return to the Mark Hammett-coached Hurricanes for the Blues halfback, Perenara's presence seemed to fade in to the backdrop.
But the Mana College-product scored a try and was busy across the park as he and fellow 20-year-old Beauden Barrett guided the Hurricanes home in a largely forgettable game.
It was forgettable in the sense that both sides struggled with their handling while the Blues were simply awful on attack as they meandered from side to side on the field with ball in hand.
Perenara said any talk of a return to Wellington for Weepu hadn't served as motivation for him to turn in a big personal performance.
"To be honest I didn't really think about it too much, Piri's a good mate of mine and it was just another game really,'' Perenara said.
"The thing of him coming back hasn't come in to mind yet. That's something that you think about towards the end of the season so I was just trying to concentrate on tonight's game.''
The victory was certainly hard fought as the home side failed to string together enough phases to build consistent pressure on the Blues as they slumped to their ninth loss from 10 games this year.|
One thing the Hurricanes have been sharp on this year though is the counter-attack and it was exemplified by Andre Taylor's first-half try as the fast fullback dotted down for his eighth five-pointer of the season.
It came on the back of some great work from that man Perenara, while Cory Jane distributed a couple of trademark fends before finding a flying Taylor who dashed over in the corner to the delight of the 11,624-strong crowd.
"We did find it hard to hit our straps in the first half and a bit of a half-time talk by Hammer got the boys up and everyone come out firing which was a positive for us,'' Perenara said of the team-talk his coach delivered at the break.
"We know we've got a lot to work on and we know we still haven't played to our full potential but it's nice to get a win like this and it just builds confidence and hopefully we take that in to next week.''
Aside from Perenara and Taylor, Conrad Smith, Julian Savea and Jason Eaton all crossed for tries and the scoreline would've blown out further had Barrett brought his kicking boots to the ground as he shanked three conversions.
Hammett was pleased to secure a positive result for his team, who have won five and lost five this year.
"Second half was pleasing, but once again in that first half I think we turned over six balls in our 40 and that became difficult and they got penalties,'' he said.
"We talked at halftime. We thought there was space on the outside, but we didn't quite engage enough. Second half we engaged a lot more, we got on their outsides and we played at the right end, so that was pleasing,
"It's the old story. If we get enough ball we know we can put a game together that can challenge any team. Tonight we got that ball and we stuck to the plan.''
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