Five first-half tries effectively finished off the game as the Hurricanes thumped the Blues 45-27 in Wellington to stay top of the Super 14 log.
The first half was played at a frenetic pace with both teams looking to run the ball at any opportunity. The only time the ball went to boot was when sidestepping a defender was not an option.
The Blues scored first through the boot of Jimmy Gopperth, but from that point onwards it was all Canes. They kept the visitors at bay with some sturdy defence and some wonderful counter-attacking rugby and bagged their fourth try after just 21 minutes.
The Canes were far more effective at the breakdown and it proved to be the difference between the two teams in the first half. The Blues had the bulk of the territory, but the hosts were clinical with ball in hand and scored almost every time they got into their opponents 22m area.
Skipper Rodney So’oialo, Scott Waldrom and Andrew Hore in particular were causing havoc for the Blues at the tackle point.
While the Blues backline looked a threat when they had possession, the slow ball gave the Hurricanes time to organise their defensive line and keep the likes of Anthony Tuitavake and Isaia Toeava relatively quiet in the first stanza.
Both sides struggled to deal with kickoffs, but the Blues in particular were punished for their errors conceding two tries directly from restarts.
Tuitavake’s late try at the end of the half would have given the Blues some hope of turning things around after the break. They came out firing in the second half and scored within minutes of the restart through the impressive Rene Ranger.
The Blues were certainly a rejuvenated side and threatened on a number of occasions, but the Canes’ defence was up to the challenge and after soaking up the pressure Ma’a Nonu scored his second and his side’s sixth try of the game to restore their 22-point lead.
There were some impressive individual performances for the Blues particularly from young Ranger, but even his enterprising running couldn’t help a side that were second best at the breakdown.
Once again the Blues continued their tradition of picking up bonus points in defeat with a last-minute try for replacement Dean Budd which keeps them in contention for a semi-final spot on 31 points.
For the Hurricanes, the bonus-point win keeps them in pole position for a home semi-final ahead of their crunch tie away to the Chiefs next weekend. This is followed by a tricky trip to Brisbane to face the unpredictable Reds.
By Andrew Worling