Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Early form has Blues cautiously optimistic

George Moala offloads during the Super Rugby pre-season match against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty
George Moala offloads during the Super Rugby pre-season match against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty

The Blues have completed another big pre-season win - this time over last year's finalists the Hurricanes - but while the confidence and optimism levels at the franchise are as high as they've been for 12 months, the new coaching team aren't getting carried away.

Three tries after halftime from Steven Luatua, Nic Mayhew and Charlie Faumuina took the game away from the Hurricanes in temperatures approaching 30deg at Eketahuna on Saturday, the Blues running out convincing 40-12 winners to go with their 59-7 victory over the Rebels the week before.

The Blues prepared for the match at Palmerston North's Rugby Institute before taking the bus to Eketahuna and while the final scoreline suggests a masterclass, the Hurricanes were hit by injury before and during the match, which also saw tries from Blues James Parsons, Rene Ranger and Lolagi Visinia.

Hurricanes TJ Perenara, Brad Shields, Motu Matu'u, Matt Proctor, Leni Apisai, Willis Halaholo and Ben May were all forced from the field, with Blade Thomson and James Blackwell injured the day before.

The opposition's injury toll is another reason for Tana Umaga's men to keep their feet on the ground, but the victory meant the trip back to Palmerston North was a happy one.

"Any time you get a win over the Hurricanes you're happy," assistant coach Paul Feeney said. "We're obviously pleased with the win, but it's only pre-season."

The Blues tipped the Hurricanes over in pre-season at North Harbour last year before the two sides went in opposite directions during the season proper. However, another good performance against the Chiefs at Pukekohe on Friday will put the Blues in an extremely positive frame of mind ahead of their first match of the season against the Highlanders at Eden Park a week later.

The Chiefs match is likely to see appearances from the Blues' New Zealand sevens players Akira and Rieko Ioane and Ben Lam, with Piers Francis and Sam Nock possibilities to return from their minor injuries; more reasons for Umaga and co to feel cautiously optimistic.

- NZ Herald

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