Rugby-Blues edge Hurricanes to go top after Eden Park thriller

  • Rugby
  • Saturday, 11 May 2024

(Reuters) - The Auckland Blues edged the Wellington Hurricanes 31-27 in a Super Rugby Pacific contest of rare intensity on Saturday to move above their rivals to the top of the standings with three rounds of the regular season remaining.

The result was not decided until well after the hooter had sounded when the Blues dramatically secured a turnover as the Hurricanes pounded away at their line in search of a first win at Eden Park since 2019.

With every breakdown fiercely contested, there was little free-flowing rugby for the bumper crowd to enjoy but none of the other 10 teams in the competition will relish taking on either side in next month's championship playoffs.

"These are the games you want to be a part of, pretty tough and a bit of a seesaw battle right down to the wire," said Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu.

"A couple more games to go to the finals, I think that puts us in good stead."

The Blues, who trailed the Hurricanes by a single point going into the clash, looked to brute force rather than guile all over the park and were rewarded with tries from Bryce Heem, Cole Forbes, Mark Telea and Angus Ta'avao.

The Hurricanes also scored four tries and ultimately it was the two conversions from wideout that flyhalf Brett Cameron missed in the first half that made the difference.

"Rugby is a pretty cruel game, hey?" said skipper Brad Shields.

"We chucked everything in there and to come up a bit short is pretty disappointing, but we've got another few games to go before the end of the season."

The Blues exploded out of the blocks and centre Heem crossed in the fourth minute but the Hurricanes soon responded with a similar close-range effort from Shields.

Blues flanker Akira Ioane was sent to the sin bin for a high clearout after half an hour but his team mates made light of the personnel shortage and laid siege to the Hurricanes line before replacement fullback Forbes touched down for the second try.

The Hurricanes hit back before halftime with a try in the corner from winger Josh Moorby and the teams turned around, separated by the two conversions kicked by Blues flyhalf Harry Plummer.

Jordie Barrett took over kicking duties for the Hurricanes after the break and made no mistake when openside Peter Lakai crossed in the 46th minute to give the Hurricanes the lead for the first time at 17-15.

Winger Telea skipped over for his eighth try of the campaign in the 53rd minute to return the lead to the Blues but a Barrett penalty soon cut it to one point.

Prop Ta'avao stretched it to eight points with a converted try in the 64th minute but there was still time for Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara to cross for his record-extending 64th Super Rugby try and Plummer to kick a penalty.

The Blues top the standings with 45 points, two ahead of the Hurricanes.

The Waikato Chiefs brushed aside the absence of the rested flyhalf Damian McKenzie to thrash Moana Pasifika 43-7 at Auckland's Mount Smart Stadium on Friday and move to 38 points.

The ACT Brumbies can go back above the Chiefs into third place with a win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney later on Saturday.

In Friday's late match, the Queensland Reds rallied from a 15-5 halftime deficit to edge the Melbourne Rebels 26-22 and remain in fifth place.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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