A tenacious Blues A side fought their way back from a 19-point deficit, before finally succumbing 35-45 to a well-drilled Hurricanes Development team at Eden Park in the weekend.
Played in beautiful sunshine ahead of our Investec Super Rugby match with the Western Force, the KFC curtain raiser might even have been more exciting than the main event, with lots of running rugby and the number of tries running into the double-figures.
The visitors were dominant early, surging to a three-try lead before replacement player Joe Royal, called into the side as an injury replacement for Hame Faiva, finally pegged one back from a rolling maul in the 27th minute.
That seemed to spark the Blues A side back into life, and shortly thereafter a short kick over the top by first-five Bryn Gatland was regathered on the full by flying centre Rene Ranger, who dotted down beneath the up-rights.
He scored his second try less than ten minutes later, tying the scores 19-19 before Gatland slotted the extras, giving the home team the lead for the first time in the match, just before half time.
The sides traded tries in the second half – Royal scored a second from a rolling maul, and Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua got a hat-trick – before a late try sealed the result, 35-45.
Although the result didn’t go our way, there was a lot to like about the Blues A performance. Captaining the side for the first time, Northland lock Josh Goodhue was a standout, as was NZ U20 representative Dalton Papalii who was named man on the match.
Meanwhile, Blues high performance manager Tony Hanks was impressed with what he saw from some of the younger members of the squad.
“We fielded six under 20 players today and they all made a good account of themselves. Caleb played his first senior game of rugby and Dalton was outstanding for 80 minutes. Joe and Rene showed the young boys a few things with four tries between them, while Bryn and D’Angelo both played well at first five.”
Blues A (35): Tries – Joe Royal (2), Rene Ranger (2), D’Angelo Leuila ; Conversions – Bryn Gatland (5).
Hurricanes Development (45): Tries – Asafo Aumua (3), Antonio Kirikiri, Toa Halifihi, Malo Tuitama, Curtis Reid; Conversions – Ben Wyness (4), Sam Malcolm.
Photo by Toreka Tele’a