For the first time since 2003, the Blues have won a Super Rugby trophy.
The perennial underachievers from Auckland beat the Hurricanes 10-7 in the final of the Brisbane 10s to capture the pre-season title for the first time.
Two vital mistakes cost the Hurricanes victory. Ahead 7-0 with three minutes remaining, Brayden Iose conceded a cynical penalty which allowed the Blues to march into the Hurricanes 22 and strike out wide via Akira Ioane.
In the final minute Jamie Booth lost the ball ten-metres shy of his own goal line and the Blues mounted a final assault which saw George Mola stretch out in the corner after initially being restrained.
Earlier Alex Fidow nudged the Hurricanes ahead when he scored a try from a slick lineout manoeuvre. Jackson Garden-Bachop covered impressively from the sideline.
Moments of quality were sparse as both teams tough tackling and poor handling resulted in a mostly forgettable spectacle.
The Hurricanes were resergent for most of day two. Ironically it was a star turn by Booth in the semi-final which reversed the Hurricanes embarrassing first day defeat to the Crusaders.
The diminutiveive halfback scored two outstanding tries as they eliminated the tournament favourites 14-10. Booth’s second tryregatheringg a chip and chase over 40-metres was a candidate for the best try of the tourney. George Bridge and Manasa Mataele were the Crusaders try scorers, but the Super XVIII champions never led at any stage.
The Hurricanes scored two tries in the opening minute of the second-half to eliminate the Waratahs 35-24 in the quarter-finals. Alex Newsome snatched an intercept to propel the Aussies into an early lead, but the Hurricanes bounced back with quick tries to Losi Filipo and Ben Lam to seize the ascendency at the interval. The Filipo strike was particularly eye-catching, involving half a dozen players in the build-up.
Peter Umaga-Jensen, via an intercept, and Du'Plessis Kirifi, supporting a bust by the evergreen Trent Renata, ensured the Waratahs were playing catch up for the remainder of the contest.
The Hurricanes final try was a beauty. Filipo smoked Wallaby veteran Drew Mitchell, jolting the ball free from Mitchell’s grasp and allowing Malo Tuitama to snaffle and dash 40-meters.
Two tries by Alex Fidow ensured the Hurricanes passage to the quarters - edging the Brumbies 12-10 in their final Pool C match to finish second in the group. The Hurricanes fell behind early with Jordan Jackson-Hope darting over, but Fidow ranging wide with aplomb crossed a minute either side of each half to give the Hurricanes a winning lead in a tight tussle. Julian Savea engineered the second try by drawing in two defenders in a determined, weaving run.
The Hurricanes were lucky to score zero in their first match. A comedy of errors was punished by a typically efficient Crusaders outfit. The misery started in the opening minute for the Hurricanes when Garden-Bachop was yellow carded for a miss-judged intercept and Nathan Vella rumbled over from a maul following the penalty.
The kick-off went through the hands of Julian Savea and into touch which allowed the Crusaders to build pressure again and Ethan Blackadder doubled the Southerners lead.
A minute prior to halftime the Hurricanes finally strung together multiple phases, but a fumble led to a try at the opposite end for Crusaders skipper George Bridge.
Vella completed a double in the second-spell when a wicked bounce from a kick favoured the Crusaders creating the space for another 90-metre breakout. Booth was the pick of the Hurricanes, exhibiting plenty of enthusiasm in otherwise lacklustre roster.
The Hurricanes edged Fiji 12-5 in their second match. A pin-point cross-kick by Garden-Bachop located James O'Reilly unmarked on the wing. Some sparkling footwork by Jone Manu sparked a Fijian response, but Ben Lam was able to muscle over for a late winner.
The Blues Caleb Clarke was named player of the tournament. He scored five tries in six games and is the son of former Blues and All Black centre Eroni Clarke.
A positive for all 12 teams was the chance to audition fringe talent and build chemistry for the long season ahead. However the small crowds, oppressive heat, largely uninspired and confused play combined with a genuine lack of stars in all squads suggests the event doesn’t enjoy a bright future.