Five tries in the space of 30 minutes following the half-time break saw the Hurricanes explode to a 37-19 victory over the Blues in the Vodacom Super 14 opener, despite trailing 16-3.
In a game remarkable for the contrasting nature of the halves, the Blues’ early game incisiveness and precision evaporated into a caning in a final 40 in which the Wellington all-star backline delivered an awesome display of attacking running and opportunism.
Coach David Nucifora would be forgiven for scratching his head. Up by plenty, with tight five dominance secured – spearheaded by All Black loosehead Tony Woodcock – saw the ‘Canes struggling to even secure their own scrums. The all-international loose trio of Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo were nowhere, transparent behind a tight five retreating rapidly.
The nature of the comeback was so emphatic that not even a downpour could maintain the momentum.
Hurricanes flyer Lome Fa’atau score after an impressive two-phase backline move – started from the crumbs of a demolished scrum – in the 44th minute ensured the ‘Canes registered the first score after the break.
Even the most opportunistic ‘Canes fan would have seen it at best as a foot in the door, and not the opening stanza of the demolishment that followed.
All Black sensation Isaia Toeava, just 20, made the scoring pass to Fa’atau, an inspired inside flick, and it was his vision 13 mins later that found captain Tana Umaga for the score that brought the ‘Canes within a solitary point.
Umaga’s immediate departure following the score allowed Ma’a Nonu to slot into midfield, where his brute power was the perfect weapon to take on the vulnerable Blues inside backs Tasesa Lavea and Luke McAlister.
Bang on the hour mark Nonu’s strength in the tackle and acceleraton saw him under the sticks, and an emphatic 20-minute turnaround was secured.
Late scores by Collins and a second for Fa’atau underlined the near-flawless second half display, and ensured a full house of five points away from home.
It was 40 minutes respendant in all that will make the ‘Canes genuine semi-final contenders this year. Once adequate possession was secured, the back row ran rampant and the backline’s plethora of skills dazzled.
The performance sets a marker, and the ease in which the talented Blues side were blown away is a testament to just how good the ‘Canes were.
Blues – Try: Atiga. Conversion: McAlister. Penalties: McAlister (4).
Hurricanes – Tries: FaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢atau (2), Umaga, Nonu, Collins. Conversions: Gopperth (2), Holwell. Penalties: Gopperth, Howell.