Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Hurricanes claim vital victory over Blues

Hurricanes 37 Blues 27
Jerome Kaino of the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.
Jerome Kaino of the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.

It was a predictable result in the end but this was a game that most definitely didn't conform to expectations.

The Hurricanes got there thanks to their perseverance and greater composure and accuracy in the final quarter. When it came to that critical period when fatigue was settling in and the respective benches were flooding on, the Hurricanes held together better.

They didn't have much ball and were under plenty of pressure, but they absorbed it and then counter-attacked when half a chance presented itself.

The final blow was struck when Vaea Fifita was able to step through a weak Matt McGahan tackle to score his second try and put his side 10 points ahead with eight minutes left.

It was a cruel blow for the Blues, as they were right in it up until then. They had ample possession and territory but, while they took advantage of that in the first half, they lost their clinical edge in the second spell and allowed little mistakes to derail them.

It was a similar story in their last game before the break against the Crusaders - the Blues were good for 60 minutes but couldn't hang tough in the final 20. They didn't capitulate, they just got a bit frantic and hesitant, which was in stark contrast to how they had played earlier in the game.

For 60 minutes, the Blues played with the cohesion, accuracy, pace, vision and spirit that made it impossible not to wonder where it had been the rest of the season.

They were good. Not good in comparison with where they have been in recent weeks or seasons - properly good - and as good as the other four New Zealand sides. This was their best away performance since they thumped the Hurricanes in Wellington in the first game of the 2013 season.

It's hard to know whether it was just a case of something clicking, the break having done them the world of good or the Hurricanes hanging off them for a split second on defence to provide the extra inch or two of space they needed to attack weak shoulders and use their power to blast into holes.

Steven Luatua played with the energy and influence he did at his best three years ago. Jerome Kaino couldn't stop scoring and, when he charged over for his second, with his back straight, knees high and perfect running form, he looked like he might have a few more years left in him yet.

Their fellow loosie, Kara Pryor, was busy-busy to the extent he showed up more than Ardie Savea, which many might have felt was impossible.

And then, having to front against the man the Blues are courting to fill his jersey in Beauden Barrett, Ihaia West played on instinct and yet was never wild or loose. He didn't goal kick - that was left to Piers Francis - and being free of the responsibility suited him perfectly.

Maybe the Blues don't need a new No 10. Maybe when the forwards do their job as well as they did and the ball is fast and the team know what they are trying to do, West can be the general the Blues need.

By next year, the Blues will have Augustine Pulu at halfback and Sonny Bill Williams at second-five - the sort of players who could steer West through the toughest games.

Hurricanes 37 (R. Goodes, D.Coles, V. Fifita (2) tries; B.Barrett 4 cons, 3 pens)
Blues 27 (K. Pryor, J. Kaino (2) tries; P. Francis 3 cons, 2 pens). Halftime: 17-24.

- NZ Herald

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