The new-look Auckland Blues produced an upset in their first outing of the season with a 34-20 win over the Wellington Hurricanes in their Super 15 match yesterday.
Much of the pre-season talk had been that the Blues would struggle under new coach John Kirwan and with more than half the squad new to Super Rugby.
The Hurricanes on the other hand made the fewest changes of any New Zealand franchise in the off-season, yet they lacked cohesion.
The Blues led early from a Piri Weepu penalty, and after falling behind on the scoreboard came back to claim victory with 15 unanswered points in the last 10 minutes.
The first half was a typical early season affair with repeated handling errors from both sides and a tendency by the Hurricanes backs to run across the field.
After Weepu’s first penalty, Beauden Barrett slotted two penalties for the Hurricanes to put them in front 6-3, before Frank Halai scored the opening try for the Blues.
Minutes later Julian Savea replied for the Hurricanes and Barrett added the conversion. Weepu then kicked a second penalty for the Blues giving the Wellington side a 13-11 halftime lead.
The Blues started the second half strongly, regaining the lead with a Charles Piutau try, only to give it away again by conceding a penalty try when Halai was sin-binned for knocking the ball over the deadball line as Savea raced in for a possible touchdown.
Despite a one-man advantage the Hurricanes were unable to score again, while Halai scored on his return to the game, Ranger added the bonus point try and Weepu landed a conversion and a third penalty.
Meanwhile, Queensland center Ben Tapuai crossed for his second try of the match five minutes from time to give the Reds a 25-17 win over archrivals the News South Wales Waratahs yesterday.
Dom Shipperley scored Queensland’s first try in the sixth minute and Tapuai touched down four minutes later as the Reds took a 17-3 lead into halftime.
Israel Folau scored his first Super 15 try for the Waratahs two minutes into the second half, and Ben Volavola leveled the scores at 17-17 in the 59th minute.
Michael Harris kicked two conversions and two penalties for the Reds.
Bernard Foley made both conversions for NSW, while Brendan McKibbin kicked a penalty.
On Friday, Morne Steyn kicked six penalties and converted a Chiliboy Ralepelle try to give Northern Bulls a 25-17 win against Western Stormers.
Joe Pietersen converted a Jean de Villiers try and kicked a penalty to cut Bulls’ lead to 12-10 on 55 minutes at Loftus Versfeld.
However, Bulls regained control and Steyn kicked two more penalty goals before adding the extra points to a try by Ralepelle.
A late try from lock Andries Bekker that Pietersen converted brought the visitors within eight points of Bulls, but they failed to score again.