Hurricanes' class shuts down Blues

Getty Images

Lynn McConnell     11 May 2018     Getty Images

With the All Blacks squad for the June France series to be named next weekend, some of the leading contenders who have returned from injury made their mark in the game.

For the Hurricanes there was fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder showing his silky running skills to reclaim the lead for his side with a 52nd minute try. Halfback TJ Perenara appeared with half an hour to play and played a key part in the build-up to lock Sam Lousi's 60th minute try after kicking along the sideline to set up a defensive Blues lineout.

However, the Blues muffed it and when the ball dropped short it was outstanding No.8 Gareth Evans who was, predictably, onto the ball to set up the initial ruck which created the impetus for Lousi to score. Evans was outstanding, making his presence felt all over the field.

For the Blues, second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams was straight into the fray, having key roles to play in the first two Blues tries, in the second it was a deftly-placed a grubber kick to the sideline which the Hurricanes needed to run into touch in their own 22m area.

Then after a midfield ruck, following the lineout, he took an inside ball from first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta and breached the line before unleashing a high offload which was pulled in by centre Orbyn Leger for the 25th minute try.

While there might have been cause for some pleasure in containing the Hurricanes' most dangerous influences, wing Ben Lam, first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and second five-eighths Ngani Laumape, there was just too much class spread around the rest of the side for the Blues to be able to fully contain.

There was a finish to the Hurricanes play that the Blues, in their situation of the moment, can only aspire to.

That was highlighted in the last minute when Laumape tried a cross field kick to replacement back Jordie Barrett. He secured the ball, fed it to Ardie Savea and he put centre Matt Proctor in for the bonus point try.

Precision at their first lineout opportunity close to the line saw the Hurricanes unleash the perfect drive for hooker Ricky Riccitelli to score five minutes into the game.

Quick thinking at a ruck infringement 10m out from the Blues line saw No.8 Gareth Evans take the quick kick to drive over hand to the posts.

Towards the end of the first half a string of four Blues penalties meant they were placed under unrelenting pressure on their own line. But they held on until halftime, a break made easier by the Hurricanes conceding a scrum penalty.

The Hurricanes were unable to establish a clear dominance, the Blues carrying the ball for 155m compared to 117 by the visitors while the home team were two in front in terms of defenders beat and one ahead in clean breaks while the Hurricanes conceded seven turnovers compared to four by the Blues.

Illness resulting from an insect bite while in Australia caused Jaco Peyper to pull out of refereeing at halftime, Paul Williams taking over.

A powerful third quarter start from the Blues brought reward for patient build-up, especially through the pack who drove relentlessly and finally produced ball close enough to the line for prop Ofa Tuungafasi to drive over.

Reclaiming the lead proved only momentary however as the Blues poor kicking failed to find touch and allowed the Hurricanes to run the ball and after several attempts, flanker Ardie Savea was positioned on the blindside to take the ball and feed fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder along the sideline for the 52nd minute try.

Scorers: Blues 15 (Orbyn Leger, Ofa Tuungafasi tries; Stephen Perofeta con, pen) Hurricanes 36 (Ricky Riccitelli, Gareth Evans, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Sam Lousi, Matt Proctor tries; Beauden Barrett 4 con, pen). HT: 8-14