Hurricanes spoil Benji's party
Hurricanes spoil Benji's partySHARE
The headlines were all about Benji Marshall, but the real winners were the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes spoiled Marshall's party, his debut in Rugby Union after his conversion from Rugby League, as they came from behind to beat the Blues 38-35 in their pre-season outing in Masterton on Saturday.
The former Kiwi League captain, Marshall, played in the first half and some of the New Zealand media reports raved about his performance.
However, it was the Hurricanes's second-half comeback, after they trailed by 16 points, that deserved the accolades.
In the more balanced reports to emerge from Masterton it is stated that Marshall wasn't the best on show.
That honour went to Blues centre George Moala, who broke the line at will, while two-try wing Tevita Li also showed his ability to beat tacklers and finish.
For the Hurricanes Marshall's opposite Marty Banks shone in his first match at this level.
The Tasman pivot set up the first try of the match for scrumhalf Chris Smylie, with an early dart down the blind then sprinted 80 metres for a try of his own after swooping on a loose pass.
More impressive was the way Banks directed play during the fourth quarter, after skipping the third, to lead the Hurricanes back with late tries to midfielder Hadleigh Parkes and James Broadhurst.
The Hurricanes raced into a 19-0 lead in the first quarter, before the Blues came back in the second to take a narrow 21-19 lead at half-time.
The Blues dominated the third quarter to race into a 35-19 lead, before the home side unleashed their fierce attacking power with three more tries in the final quarter and steal the victory.
The sell -out crowd of 6000 were treated to an entertaining match with 11 tries – six to the Hurricanes.
Early on, the Hurricanes capitalised on an attacking that line that was too lateral and they pounced on three turnovers to race to a 19-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Banks was directly involved in the first two of these tries, him and right wing Andre Taylor involved in the game's opening try to halfback Chris Smylie and then Banks running all of 80 metres to score himself.
Hurricanes prop Chris Eves made a turnover in midfield, leading to the next try to fullback Nene Milner-Skudder.
The Blues struck in the second quarter, scoring three tries and taking a 21-19 lead into halftime.
Wings Tevita Li, Lolagi Visinia and centre George Moala scored tries for the Blues. All were converted.
The Blues scored their fourth try early in the fourth quarter to replacement Sonetane Takulua, and then wing Li ran in his brace on the end of the chain of an attacking line-out, putting them ahead 35-19.
The Hurricanes came roaring back in the fourth quarter, with tries being scored by inside centre and flank Callum Gibbins and then Broadhurst at the end.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett said despite the pleasing score line he was thrilled with his team's defensive work particularly in the first quarter. He also paid special mention to Banks who scored a stunning try and kicked three conversions.
"Marty's defensive game was a highlight for me," said Hammett.
Other Hurricanes players to standout included loose forwards Brad Shields and Ardie Savea and replacement hooker Motu Matu'u who added energy late in the match.
For the Blues, centre Moala was their best player on the day.
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Smylie, Banks, Milner-Skudder, Gibbins, Parkes, Broadhurst
Cons: Banks 3, Taylor
For the Blues:
Tries: Li 2, Visinia, Willison, Takulua
Cons: Nikoro 3, Kerr 2
Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Andre Taylor, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Cardiff Vaega, 11 Matt Proctor, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jack Lam, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Brendon Edmonds, 2 Joe Royal, 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements – from: Motu Matu'u, Adrian Barone, John Schwalger, Mark Reddish, Adam Hill, Callum Gibbins, Billy Guyton, Beaudein Waaka, Hadleigh Parkes, Newton Tudreu.
Blues: 15 Albert Nikoro, 14 Lolagi Visinia, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Benji Marshall, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements – from: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Tom McCartney, Angus Ta'avao, William Lloyd, Tom Murday, Jordan Manihera, Chris Vui, Jamison Gibson-Park, Sonatane Takulua, Baden Kerr, Matt McGahan, Marty Swart.
Referee: Chris Pollock