Blues defeat Hurricanes in season opener

Blues defeat Hurricanes in season opener

Sir John Kirwan’s reign as Blues head coach began in emphatic fashion tonight as his side toppled the Hurricanes 34-20 at Westpac Stadium.
It was a special night for halfback Piri Weepu who played his 100th Super Rugby game in his hometown, as well as Rene Ranger who notched up 50 games for the Blues.
Their side made sure they were milestones to remember as the Blues came back from an 11-13 halftime deficit to dismantle the heavyweight Hurricanes with a bonus point victory on their home soil.
Boasting a new-look team full of youth and enthusiasm, the Blues refused to lie down against the Hurricanes and produced some moments of brilliance to show they will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
The Blues got off to a good start as first five-eighths Chris Noakes made a fine break and earned his side a penalty which Weepu slotted to give the visitors a 3-0 lead after as many minutes.
However the Blues were unable to claim the ball from the re-start and immediately put themselves under pressure. Beauden Barrett nailed a penalty kick and followed up with another soon after to give the Hurricanes a 6-3 lead after 17 minutes.
The Blues looked dangerous on attack and it wasn’t long before the exciting Tongan back three sparked into action.
Following a lineout 20 metres from the Hurricanes’ line, George Moala smashed his way through Conrad Smith before Rene Ranger fired a miss pass out to Frank Halai who crossed the whitewash for a try on debut.
However while there were plenty of exciting moments on attack, the Blues looked passive in defence and allowed the Hurricanes to make the most of their possession as they found plenty of inroads upfield.
Wing Julian Savea finished off a sustained period of play to go over in the corner, and Barrett’s conversion gave the home side a 13-8 lead before Weepu narrowed the deficit with a penalty kick on half time.
The Blues came out with renewed vigour in the second half and got stuck into their counterparts. Once again it was first-five Noakes who made the initial break before a second man play out wide saw Charles Piutau crash over the line.
However in what looked to be a match defining call, video referee Vinny Munro controversially sin binned Frank Halai for purposely knocking the ball into the in-goal as he dueled with Savea and awarded the Hurricanes a penalty try.
With their backs against the wall, the young Blues outfit hit back the only way they knew how ñ on the scoreboard.
Weepu slotted a penalty goal to narrow the deficit to just a point with 20 minutes remaining, before Ranger celebrated his 50th game in style and put his side ahead with a brilliant try as he brushed off three defenders to fight his way over the line.
Moala then intercepted the ball and raced 40 metres, and from the ensuing ruck the ball was spun wide as Halai crashed over for his second try of the night.
A penalty goal on fulltime by Weepu put an exclamation mark on a fine performance as the Blues came away with a 34-20 victory.
The Blues will now prepare to take on the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday night.
Blues 34 (Frank Halai 2, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger tries; Piri Weepu 4 pens, con) Hurricanes 20 (Julian Savea try, penalty try; Beauden Barrett 2 pen, 2 con) HT: 11-13