For the Blues, school is always open because the lessons keep coming and occasionally they are delivered with a rap over the knuckles, this time from the Hurricanes, who showed at Eden Park that you need more than grit to win.

Taking inspiration from the vocal leadership of skipper TJ Perenara, the visitors, on track for a home quarter-final after their 22-12 win, proved that taking your scoring opportunities – whether finishing those presented to you or creating them out of nothing – helps, too.

There was a physicality and intensity from the Blues that showed they wanted to follow through with their promise of putting the previous week's disappointment against the Brumbies in Canberra right, but while they tackled, cleaned out and scrummaged superbly against the visitors, they didn't have the attacking edge required to cut down the second best team in the competition.

The Hurricanes were under siege in the first quarter of the second half; trapped on their line in a series of scrums which were dominated by the Blues and which forced the sinbinning of prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen, yet they somehow wriggled out of the danger and although they conceded a try soon after to Dalton Papalii in the right corner, a remarkable effort from the flanker, Beauden Barrett released the pressure with an intercept try from 50m out.


Halfback Sam Nock scored his first try at this level for the Blues in the first half – a good reward for their dominance – but while they got close at least four other times through Ma'a Nonu, Scott Scrafton and two lineout drives, they couldn't get the ball down.

The Blues have now dropped to the bottom of the New Zealand conference and 14th of 15 teams with only the Sunwolves below them. It will take a miracle for them to qualify for the finals and a major task for coach Leon MacDonald over the off-season will be working out how to transfer the X-factor in his backline into tries.

Their defence was good. It was confrontational and accurate, with Patrick Tuipulotu, Karl Tu'inukuafe and Nonu leading the way, but again, the Hurricanes had an edge here too - particularly through Ardie Savea. If the Blues can take anything from this latest disappointment it's recognising how deep other teams are prepared to go in order to win.

"With the penalty count and yellow card, we were forced to dig deep which we actually enjoyed," Hurricanes first-five Beauden Barrett said. "I think it shows a lot of character when you're forced to work a little harder for each other, so we'll take a lot from it even though it wasn't probably the tidiest of performances.

"We expected the Blues to dominate possession. I think their average is 60 per cent possession, so we knew we had to D up. That probably worked in our favour because it was dewy and we were happy to bring line speed and put their skills under pressure and get turnovers.

"We went into the game understanding not to get frustrated if they had a lot of possession and to make the most of our turnover ball. Winning those key moments and making the most of our opportunities were the two things we focused on."

How do you survive constant attacks on your own line like those attempted by the Blues?

"You have to just stay in the moment, keep fighting and take it one step at a time," said Barrett. "We were trying not to infringe. I believe we can defend without infringing and win those big moments. Our ability to turn ball over and force errors when we were hard up against it probably won us the game."


For the Hurricanes, the Crusaders appear their only serious threat. For the Blues, they are again their own worst enemy.