The Hurricanes put in a strong second-half performance to beat the Blues 29-24 in Wellington on Saturday.
After being 5-24 down at half-time, the home side scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to blow their opponents away.
With their spot in the play-offs already secured, the Hurricanes started a weakened team, but they still had the likes of TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea on the bench, who both made a huge impact in the last 20 minutes.
The Blues dominated play early in the game and they opened the scoring with an Otere Black penalty in the eighth minute.
After sustained pressure inside the Hurricanes’ half, the Blues eventually scored the first try of the game when centre Tanielu Tele’a was put into a gap a few metres out to run in for the score in the 13th minute, which Black converted.
The Hurricanes saw a lot more of the ball for the second 20 minutes of the first half, but they wasted several try-scoring opportunities in the strike zone.
Instead, it was the Blues who extended their lead in the 36th minute when Caleb Clarke ran in for an easy try after a well-worked move from a scrum a few metres out from the Hurricanes’ tryline.
The home side finally got their first points of the game in the 38th minute when Peter Umaga-Jensen sprinted in for his team’s first try after he was put into space by Danny Toala, who split the Blues’ defence open.
However, the Blues had the final say in the half with Melani Nanai weaving his way through the opposition’s defence to score a try after the half-time hooter sounded.
Black was successful with the conversion and at half-time, the Blues had a commanding 24-5 lead.
The Hurricanes started the second half well and they opened the scoring in the 45th minute after Fletcher Smith gathered a neat chip kick from Jackson Garden-Bachop to run in for his team’s second try.
Another Garden-Bachop chip kick led to the Hurricanes’ third try. Again, it was Smith who gathered in the midfield before passing to lock Isaia Walker-Leawere, who ran in for the try.
Garden-Bachop’s conversion was successful and the Hurricanes found themselves just five points behind on the scoreboard.
The Hurricanes, who were bolstered by Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara’s presence off the bench, completed their comeback in the 64th minute when Umaga-Jensen scored ran in for his second try after an excellent offload from Alex Fidow.
Garden-Bachop made things a little bit more comfortable for his team with a three-pointer in the 76th minute and that was enough to secure victory.
Man of the match: Jackson Garden-Bachop had a hand in two Hurricanes’ tries and was excellent in the second half. Fletcher Smith, Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara were all outstanding off the bench in the second half, but the award must go to a Blues player. Melani Nanai was brilliant with ball in hand and he scored a great try as well.
Tries: Umaga-Jensen 2, Smith, Walker-Leawere
Con: Garden-Bachop 3
Tries: Tele’a, Clarke, Nenai
Cons: Black 3
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Richard Judd, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Kane Le’aupepe, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Jonah Lowe.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (captain), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Hisa Sasagi, 18 Lua Li, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Josh Goodhue, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Ma’a Nonu.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
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