Above: the local crowd swarms the players on the field afterwards. Photo by @hurricanesrugby Twitter.
The Hurricanes took their game to North Harbour club Mahurangi this afternoon for their final Super Rugby 2018 pre-season fixture and came away with an encouraging 26-14 win over a full-strength Blues unit.
In a stop-start match that never reached great heights as a spectacle, the Blues led 14-12 at halftime but were held scoreless by the Hurricanes after a disappointing second-half display.
The Hurricanes opened the scoring in the fifth minute when halfback TJ Perenara sniped blindside in combination with No. 8 Gareth Evans from a scrum and caught the Blues defence unawares.
The Blues responded when their halfback Augustine Pulu kicked ahead for Matt Duffie to pursue and he outsprinted all chasers for the ball. Bryn Gatland kicked a sideline conversion and the Blues led 7-5
Matt Proctor played the entire match and was rewarded for his industry with the Hurricanes’ second try, converted by Ihaia West, which made it 12-7 to the Hurricanes. West was to play the first half for the Hurricanes and Jackson Garden-Bachop the second. The brothers Barrett, Beauden and Jordie, were both absent from this encounter.
Reiko Ioane scored a cracking try on halftime when he retrieved a Ngani Laumape kick on the full and skirted 80 metres to touch down under the posts. His stepping was impressive, turning Laumape into knots in a popular run that had the bumper grassroots crowd in full voice.
The second half started in error-ridden fashion. There was then a long injury delay when Hurricanes prop Chris Eves was carried off the field with an apparent neck injury [subsequently confirmed as a blow to the shoulder, not serious]. Eves had been involved in the lead-up to Proctor’s try with a nice break.
Jonah Lowe was lively all afternoon – switching between wing and midfield - and intercepted a pass and dashed 40 metres to put the Hurricanes into the lead, which they never lost. New Hurrricane Murray Douglas scored the last try when he received a pass from Chase Tiatia who made a break after receiving a bounce pass on the wing, dodging two Blues defenders.
It was a match that never soared to great heights on a hot afternoon, but both sides were able to empty their entire benches.
In pre-season this year, the Hurricanes have had wins over the Crusaders in Greymouth and now the Blues in Mahurangi. Last weekend squad members were beaten finalists by the Blues in the Brisbane 10s.
The naming of the Hurricanes squad to start the 2018 Super Rugby season is imminent. The Hurricanes fly out to South Africa to prepare for their season opener against the Bulls in Pretoria next Sunday morning and then on to Argentina to play the Jaguares the following Sunday. Their first home match is Saturday 10 March against the Crusaders in Wellington.
Hurricanes 26 (TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Jonah Lowe, Murray Douglas tries; Ihaia West 2 con; Jackson Garden Bachop con) beat the Blues 14 (Matt Duffie, Reiko Ioane tries; Bryn Gatland 2 con). HT: Blues 14-12.