The Wellington Hurricanes continued their mid-season resurgence with a 39-20 win over the Auckland Blues in their Super 15 derby in Wellington yesterday.
After trailing 13-17 at halftime, they took control in the crucial opening 10 minutes of the second half with a converted try, down to 14 men with hooker Dane Coles in the sin bin.
It set up the Hurricanes’ third consecutive win and kept them in touch with the competition leaders after turning around a disastrous start to the year in which they won only one of their first five outings.
They outscored the Blues five tries to three and Captain Conrad Smith said while his side are starting to believe in the effectiveness of their running game, they know they cannot relax.
“We’ve still got a lot of hard work to do. We drop one in the next few weeks and we’re back in the heap, so we’ve got to keep building and enjoy the confidence we’re getting,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, the Blues continue to have problems on the road, having now lost 12 consecutive away matches, last winning away from their Auckland base when they beat the Hurricanes in Wellington at the start of last season.
The Hurricanes and Blues started this weekend filling 10th and 11th places, both on 16 points and only three points away from a berth in the crucial top six.
With the bonus-point victory and now four wins from eight games, the ’Canes remain contenders, while the Blues are three from eight and on the fringe of being ruled out of contention.
Chris Noakes, thrust into the revolving No. 10 position for the Blues, stamped his mark on the game early with a penalty two minutes after the kick-off.
The Hurricanes responded with a quick 13 points from two Beauden Barrett penalties and a converted try to Alapati Leiua, before the Blues shut out the half with two converted tries.
The first went to George Moala, with Noakes landing the conversion from the sideline, and the second was a penalty-try after a scrum infringement on the Hurricanes’ line after Coles had been yellow-carded.
However, the Blues were shut out in the second half, landing a sole penalty by Benji Marshall, while the Hurricanes piled up four tries and 26 points.
They regained the lead shortly after the break with a long build-up of short forward rushes before the ball was moved wide for Julian Savea to score.
T.J. Perenara finished off a long-range counterattack move for the Hurricanes’ third try and Smith gained the bonus point when he outsprinted Frank Halai to the ball after Savea had chipped behind the Blues defenses.
On the stroke of fulltime, replacement hooker Motu Matu’u scored a try wide out after another long-range building-up effort by the Hurricanes.