Abbott double edges Blues
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: A Mark Abbott brace, including a 74th-minute converted try, handed the Hurricanes a narrow 28-24 victory over the Blues on Saturday.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett was instrumental in three of the four Hurricanes tries in the fast but scrappy encounter where missed tackles and turnovers were rife.
The Blues, who have not beaten a New Zealand side at home since they downed the Highlanders in the first round of 2016, hit the front for the first time against the Hurricanes with 15 minutes remaining.
But despite their desire to arrest their dismal home record, they could not stop Barrett engineering a late match-winning try. The Blues were pressing the Hurricanes line looking to extend their lead when Barrett chipped ahead and regathered to spark a move that swept the length of the field.
It ended with the flyhalf angling a kick towards the corner where lock Mark Abbott, who scored the first try, was on hand to score the decider.
"It took a pretty special play from Beauden to get them down their end. That was the big play that we were looking for to win, and they won it unfortunately," Blues captain James Parsons said.
Barrett called it a "spur of the moment play" but Canes captain TJ Perenara said it typified their never-say-die attitude.
"We were under the pump for a big part of that second half and for us not to concede too much and to be able to get up and over the line, I'm proud of that," Perenara said.
Both sides traded tries through the first quarter, with Abbott scoring in the third minute and Augustine Pulu replying for the Blues from the restart. Barrett sent Ngani Laumape for the Hurricanes' second try with Melani Nanai equalising for the Blues.
Sonny Bill Williams fumbled a short pass to gift Barrett a try in the 27th minute, which put the Hurricanes ahead 21-14. But as much as Barrett starred with his ability to read the game and shred the defence, he again found himself in hot water with his third yellow card in two weeks.
He received two last week for deliberate knock downs against the Waratahs, and he was sent off late in the first half for knocking the ball out of the hands of scrumhalf Pulu.
The Blues gained nothing from their one-man advantage but hit the front midway through the second half when Bryn Gatland, the son of Wales coach Warren Gatland, took the field.
The replacement flyhalf landed a penalty and converted a try by Scott Scrafton to have the Blues up 24-21 before Abbott sealed the outcome for the Hurricanes.
The defending champions have six wins from seven games, to sit four points behind the unbeatenCrusaders in the New Zealand conference while the Blues are at the bottom with just three wins from eight outings.
Man of the match: Blake Gibson and Jerome Kaino were special in their efforts at the breakdown while Steven Luatua put in a massive shift. Jordie Barrett was once again steady with his boot and Ngani Laumape was evasive with ball-in-hand. TJ Perenara was busy always and Ardie Savea provided plenty of force. Mark Abbott worked tirelessly throughout the encounter but our ward goes to Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett, who ran riot once again despite receiving a third yellow card in two matches.
For the Blues:
Tries: Pulu, Nanai, Scrafton
Cons: Francis 2, Gatland
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Abbott 2, Laumape, B Barrett
Cons: J Barrett 4
Yellow card: Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes, 31 - intentionally knocking the ball down)
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 George Moala.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Cory Jane.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)