Five stars for 'Canes
The Hurricanes ground out an entertaining 39-20 win over the Blues on Friday in Wellington for their fourth win of the season.
The Blues refused to the let the Hurriances run away with a fixture that they dominated in terms of possession and territory until the very end, with the hosts finishing with five tries.
Alapati Leiua in particular was excellent, the centre having converted from the wing and set to play for London Wasps next season showing off his full set of skills in his 62 minutes on the park.
Much had been made of the Blues' leaky defence and Leiua strolled in for the 'Canes first try early on through two poor tackles - just reward for some enterprising attacking play.
Two disallowed tries in the first half for Julian Savea and Dane Coles kept the scoreboard from ticking over for the hosts and the Blues eventually pounced.
Savea's try was disallowed when Leiua's pass was adjudged to go forward as the centre enjoyed a blockbuster first half.
Coles' effort was even better and on another day his dive to the corner may have been given by the TMO, as his athletic leap saw him ground the ball with his arm landing in touch simultaneously.
That lead to George Moala catching Savea napping at the back of the rolling maul and sneaking into the corner to bring the Blues back into the match at 10-13, before they took the lead.
Benji Marshall was an early replacement for Chris Noakes and was stopped just short of the line under the posts illegally by Coles, who headed to the sin-bin for his indiscretion.
The Blues' front-row had been talked up beforehand with Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina returning.
They underlined their pedigree with a powerful scrum under the posts, referee Nick Briant running under the sticks to award the penalty try and hand the visitors a 17-13 lead at half-time. Oddly, given how well the Hurricanes had played, they trailed.
Problems for the 'Canes at the scrum meant they were leaking penalties, but renewed composure resulted eventually in their second try.
A series of drives on the Blues line left the space out wide for Beauden Barrett to pop the ball inside to Savea, who burst through the tackle of Jerome Kaino for the score.
Then it was third time lucky for the Hurricanes with the TMO. Leiua burst through the defence and gave Cory Jane room to run on his outside, his loose pass ending up in the hands of TJ Perenara for the hosts' third try.
Marshall's penalty kept the Blues within reach at 27-20 but an opportunistic score from the 'Canes sealed the try bonus point.
Savea spotted the space on the left of the Blues defence and kicked ahead, hacking on for Conrad Smith to beat Frank Halai to the bounce of the ball and score the try.
They should have had a fifth, but Jeffrey Toomaga-Allan spilled the ball as he dove low for the line with the Blues split open once more.
It didn't matter. The 14-point gap on the scoreboard was too much for the poor Blues to overcome as the 'Canes enjoy their current patch of good form and rise up the New Zealand Conference. Motu Matu'u added the fifth eventually to round things up.
Tries: Leiua, Savea, Perenara, C.Smith, Matu'u
Cons: Barrett 4
Pens: Barrett 2
Yellow Card: Coles
Tries: Penalty Try, Moala
Cons: Noakes, Marshall
Pen: Noakes, Marshall
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 George Moala, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Benji Marshall, 23 Frank Halai
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Watt New Zealand