The Blues looked to have scored a remarkable upset victory over the high-flying Hurricanes at Eden Park tonight, until a piece of Beauden Barrett magic and a well-timed brace by Mark Abbott proved their undoing.
When the Hurricanes lock scored after just three minutes of play, it looked as though the home-town fans would be in for a long night. But dynamic halfback Augustine Pulu answered back almost immediately, sending the Eden Park crowd of 24,208 into a frenzy.
Just over ten minutes later, Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape added to his considerable tally of tries for the season. Again, the Blues answered back almost immediately. Steven Luatua went bursting through two minutes later, popped an offload to winger Melani Nanai, who darted down the touchline to score a stunner.
The Blues looked to have the edge when, from out of nowhere, Hurricanes first-five Beauden Barrett scored a stunner of his own, hacking a loose ball down field and then regathering it himself. When it looked like the Blues would again answer back almost immediately, Barrett was shown a yellow card for going off his feet, knocking the ball from Pulu’s grasp in the process.
That seemed to upset the flow of the game, and though the Blues came close to drawing the score before halftime, they just couldn’t capitalise on the number of half chances that came their way. But though they went into the break behind 14-21 on the scoreboard, they were not out of the contest.
After the break, the Blues again managed to cut holes in the Hurricanes defence, creating opportunities but failing to make the most of them – most often due to a lack of having players in support. It was frustrating and exciting in equal measures.
For all their vaunted attacking prowess, the Hurricanes also struggled to find the try line in the second 40, as the Blues muscled up in defense.
Finally, Blues lock Scott Scrafton – in just his second start – was driven over from less than a metre out, giving the home team the lead with just over ten minutes to go. The crowd roared its appreciation, as suddenly the upset was within their grasp.
But elation turned to heartbreak when Abbott crossed for his second a few minutes later, following a magic weave up the field by the elder Barrett brother. The visitors wound the clock down with some smart and evasive football, and the Blues faithful were left heartbroken, rueing what could have been an amazing victory.
Now the team has a much-needed bye week, before resuming its 2017 Investec Super Rugby campaign against the Brumbies in Canberra (30 April) and the Waratahs in Sydney (6 May). Our next home game will be against the Cheetahs at Eden Park on Friday 12 May. You can purchase tickets here.
Blues 24 (Tries – Pulu, Nanai, Scrafton; Conversions – Francis 2, Gatland 1; Penalties – Gatland)
Hurricanes 28 (Tries – Abbott 2, Laumape, B.Barrett; Conversions – J.Barrett 4)