It proved the proverbial game of two halves as the Blues came but could not conquer against the Hurricanes. The home side prevailed 37-27 at Westpac Stadium.
The Blues were outstanding in the first half, powering over the Hurricanes pack at set-piece and in the open, which gave their dangerous backs plenty of opportunities to shine.
They managed three tries to two in the opening 40 minutes, with Jerome Kaino grabbing a brace after Kara Pryor picked up a stunning opening try. Japan international Male Sa’u made a telling break, passing to Pryor on the outside who ran in from 20m for a superb try.
The Hurricanes answered before Kaino’s first try from a lineout drive, which followed an initial stunning kick-off taken on the full by Stephen Luatua with Pryor again making ground.
The home side again answered before Kaino scored his second – a solo effort after bursting out of a ruck 20m from the line and out-lasting the cover.
Piers Francis took over the kicking duties to bag all three conversions and an opening penalty for the 24-17 halftime advantage.
The Hurricanes shored up their defensive effort in the second half, and pushed up fast on the outsides to snuff out the dangers from the Blues. That opened more chances for the home side and tested the Blues in both attack and defence.
The Hurricanes took no chances in a must-win game for their playoff chances with two Barrett penalties, before two superb pieces of brilliance from big lock Vaea Fifita resulted in tries to put the game out of reach.
The Blues pushed back hard and hammered away in the final minutes with all replacements on the park – after some niggling injuries sidelined the outstanding Luatua, Francis and key lineout target, Josh Bekhuis.
“We played the way we wanted to play for that first 40,” said captain James Parsons. “But we didn’t come out and execute in the second half. Some ill-discipline probably cost us in the end and they got up on top of us. Then some moments of magic from Vaea Fifita put us on the back foot.
“The intent was there defensively and we spoke about it at halftime. But we were disconnected and tried to put in the one-off hits, and we know that is not going to last for the full 80 minutes. We tried to get more connected and get our jobs and roles right, but we didn’t execute.
“We are thoroughly disappointed but we know there is still plenty for us to play for in the coming weeks and get our win column up and build towards an even better next year.”
Upfront Kaino was sensational, with Pryor and Luatua prominent. While Melani Nanai was always dangerous from the back in open play.
The Blues return to Eden Park for their final two games – next Friday and the following Friday – against the Brumbies and the Waratahs.
Blues 27 (Jerome Kaino 2, Kara Pryor tries; Piers Francis 2 penalties, 3 conversions)
Hurricanes 37 (Vaea Fifita 2, Reg Goodes, Dane Coles tries; Beauden Barrett 3 penalties, 4 conversions)
Halftime 24-17 Blues