RYAN VREDE watched Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett produce a sensational run to set up a last-gasp try then kick the conversion for a 26-25 victory over the Blues.
The Canes looked dead and buried, with the Blues pinning them deep in their territory through tactical punts and composed phase play. But Barrett, impressive all evening, sliced through the defensive line expertly in the dying minutes to craft a try for Conrad Smith. The youngster then held his nerve to kick the extras for a massive victory in the context of the Hurricanes’ season.
But while these sides were never going to produce a dour contest, it was an error-ridden affair. Neither side could control the ball through enough phases consistently to build any telling pressure, their poor ball protection on the ground undermining this cause. Furthermore their tactical kicking was woeful and often offered their opponents broken field opportunities.
The Blues would have wondered just how they trailed at the break (19-16) after dominating possession and territory. They need look no further than lethargic defence and a lineout that steadily capitulated.
They opened a 10-point lead through a Ma’a Nonu converted try and Lachie Munro penalty but would only add six points before the turnaround. The Hurricanes, however, absorbed considerable pressure but still managed three first half tries, Andre Taylor’s 40m effort the pick of the lot. Munro erred in the Canes’ second five pointer when he tried to run himself out of trouble, only to be isolated in a move that culminated in Cory Jane scoring. The Canes grabbed the lead for the first time soon thereafter, Smith benefiting from a favourable bounce after a scrappy hack ahead.
Munro booted the Blues back ahead with three penalties after the restart to give his side a six point lead going into the final quarter. The Blues had played more intelligently than they had at any stage in the first half and the Canes were showing signs of feeling the pressure, manifested through the infringements that allowed Munro to establish the lead.
When Barrett hooked a 64th minute penalty attempt that pressure mounted. The Blues went into containment mode and did so effectively. It was always going to take a moment of brilliance to unlock them. Barrett delivered.