Hurricanes impress in win over Blues
PRE-SEASON REPORT: The Hurricanes have ended their pre-season campaign with a 26-14 win over the Blues in Auckland on Thursday.
Played in hot and humid conditions in Warkworth, the Hurricanes will head to South Africa for their opening Super Rugby match against the Bulls in a positive frame of mind after their second pre-season win which followed on from their positive showing at the Brisbane Global Tens.
There was a lot to like in the Hurricanes play from the outset as they dominated possession and territory to keep their opposition on the back foot for long periods.
That pressure was turned into points when scrumhalf Thomas Perenara finished off a nice set-piece move to open the scoring before the Blues hit back against the run of play to the lead off the back of a Matt Duffie try.
Both sides took some time to adjust to the rulings around and beyond the breakdown for a period, with the Hurricanes showing plenty of patience when they held possession.
They then took the lead following some quick work by Perenara before Matt Proctor finished off to score the Hurricanes second try on the half-hour mark.
The Hurricanes looked like they would extend their advantage on the stroke of half-time but an attacking kick landed in the arms of Blues wing Rieko Ioane who went 80m to score under the posts.
While they were down 12-14 at the break, the Hurricanes would have been more than pleased with the first half work and the form of some returning players.
A host of second-half changes did not alter the good form of the squad, either, as Jonah Lowe put the Hurricanes on the front foot early in the second half with a long-range intercept try before lock Murray Douglas finished off the move of the match just minutes later as the visitors went out to a 26-14 lead.
It was an advantage they never looked like relinquishing as they continued to communicate well on defence while putting the Blues under pressure at set piece.
Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd was pleased with the overall performance but conceded they still had a bit of work to do in some areas.
He was also delighted they had walked away with no injuries from the match and also reported prop Chris Eves had only received a "stinger" to his shoulder after he was stretchered off.
"There was good intensity and intent," Boyd said. "We were a little bit rusty in some parts but some of the returning guys, that was the first time they had played so they needed that to get the cobwebs out, which they did."
Boyd felt the players who had been involved in the entire pre-season campaign continued to put their hands up and he, along with the rest of the coaching staff, had some tough calls to make when it came to the final selection of the squad to travel to South Africa and on to Argentina.
He was also happy with the attitude the players showed on defence throughout the 80 minutes.
"We worked really hard on defence and when they had the ball for sustained periods of time we held them out nicely most of the time. We let in a couple of soft ones but by and large we are really happy."
Tries: Duffie, R Ioane
Cons: Gatland 2
Tries: Perenara, Proctor, Lowe, Douglas
Cons: West, Garden-Bachop 2
Blues first-half team: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie or Jordan Trainor, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Augustine Pulu (captain), 8 Jimmy Tupou, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Josh Goodhue, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Blues second-half team: 15 Jordan Trainor, 14 Tamati Tua, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Jordan Hyland, 10 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Glenn Preston, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: Mike Tamoaieta, Ross Wright, Jacob Pierce, Sione Havili, Sam Nock, George Moala.
Hurricanes: 15 Matt Proctor, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Ihaia West, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: Asafo Aumua, James O'Reilly, Alex Fidow, Chris Eves, Fraser Armstrong, Murray Douglas, James Blackwell, Michael Fatialofa, Sam Henwood, Reed Prinsep, Blade Thomson, Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Chase Tiatia, Ben Lam, Jonah Lowe, Trent Renata.