Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Blues show their good side

George Moala races away to score the Blues' bonus-point try during their impressive win over the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty
George Moala races away to score the Blues' bonus-point try during their impressive win over the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty

Blues 37
Hurricanes 24

John Kirwan must have had mixed feelings watching his team humble the Hurricanes at Eden Park tonight.

On the one hand he will be ecstatic, obviously, that his Blues team secured such a commanding victory over an outfit which tore the defending champion Chiefs to shreds last weekend. On the other, the question around why his team can't do this away from their headquarters must have crossed his mind more than once.

Spare a thought too for Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett. His team can still consider themselves to be in the playoffs mix and would have moved to fourth with a victory. Instead, they remain in sixth. With only two matches remaining, their grip on this competition is becoming tenuous.

For the Blues, their playoffs hopes disappeared several weeks ago in their lacklustre defeat to the Chiefs in New Plymouth. The defeat to the Sharks last weekend was another nail in the coffin, but there were encouraging signs in Albany.

Tonight, they were writ large. They brought up their fourth-try bonus point after only 47 minutes through George Moala, which arrived mere minutes after a stunning effort from loose forward Jerome Kaino in which he took on most of the Hurricanes forwards from close range, got to the line, and somehow found the strength to force the ball.

There were some dumb moments, as there usually are with this Blues team. But they were fewer than usual. It wasn't all razzle dazzle on this surprisingly cold Auckland night, either.

They had to show grit on defence against one of the best attacking backlines in the competition and nowhere was that illustrated better than in the second half when they kept out both Cory Jane and Victor Vito in a move which went to the TMO for clarification. A double knock-on by Conrad Smith in the build-up put paid to that.

Tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina had a storming game, as did Luke Braid, who once again led the defensive line. Try scorers Moala and Lolagi Visinia looked increasingly dangerous, the latter limping off and replaced by Albert Nikoro. Directing it all was Ihaia West, playing in the No10 jersey for the the first time, and, while he didn't have it all his own way, he did enough to suggest Kirwan should sign him up on a long-term contract as soon as possible.

His illustrious opposite Beauden Barrett, who, like many of teammates had a difficult evening, certainly didn't outshine him.

A quiet Cory Jane was substituted after only 54 minutes. All Blacks and Hurricanes teammate Julian Savea limped off in the second half - a concern for Steve Hansen - with Blues prop Tony Woodcock doing likewise earlier with a hip injury.

Hansen will be keen to get learn about their injuries. Kirwan will want the key to repeating this performance. Hammett won't want to see another like it.

There was some good stuff from his side at the end - Ardie Savea running in from distance and Faifili Levave scoring his second, but it was far too late.

The awarding of a penalty try to the Blues in the first half by referee Garratt Williamson was a controversial note, but he had no choice once he ruled last defender Matt Proctor had deliberately knocked on Ma'a Nonu's pass to Bryn Hall.

Blues 37 (penalty try, Lolagi Visinia, Jerome Kaino, George Moala, Patrick Tuipulotu tries; Ihaia West 2 pens, 3 cons)
Hurricanes 24 (Faifili Levave 2, Julian Savea, Ardie Savea tries; Beauden Barrett 2 cons)
Halftime: 15-7

- APNZ

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