Hurricanes centre Conrad Smith scored a try as the fulltime siren sounded to clinch a 26-25 victory for his side at Eden Park tonight.
It was heartbreak for the Blues who had toiled so hard and put in a much improved performance to come within seconds of securing a win.
But a piece of Beauden Barrett brilliance in the dying moments of the game had the 23,000 strong crowd at Eden Park stunned as he made a break and offloaded the ball to his Hurricanes captain who scored the match winning try.
The cards were stacked against the Blues with an injury ravaged squad, two suspensions and a short turnaround following their trip to South Africa, yet they threw everything at their opponents.
With Tony Woodcock returning to action, the Blues smashed the Hurricanes at scrum time and Daniel Braid was inspirational as captain, spearheading the forward pack’s dominant performance.
However ball security and lapses of concentration at crucial stages were ultimately the Blues’ undoing as the Hurricanes continued their brilliant revival.
Tonight’s loss, the Blues’ fourth in five games, sees them maintain their position at the bottom of the New Zealand Conference as they now have a week off to contemplate their worst start in Super Ruby history.
Tonight was the first time Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu had played against their former franchise and they seemed intent on vindicating their shift north from the outset, with Weepu kicking superbly and Nonu smashing his old teammates in defence.
The Blues’ first try could hardly have been scripted better. Dumped by the Hurricanes at the end of the season last year, Ma’a Nonu made his former team pay with a try 14 minutes in.
After the forwards had set a superb platform up front with a rolling maul and a number of hit-ups, Weepu took the ball to the line to get within inches of the whitewash, and from the ensuing ruck no-one was going to stop Nonu as he stepped and ran straight through two defenders to score.
But after scoring the Blues simply switched off and allowed the Hurricanes right back into the game.
Julian Savea claimed a high ball before fending off David Raikuna with ease and offloading to fullback Andre Taylor who beat two defenders and sprinted 40 metres to score a sensational try.
Blues fullback Lachie Munro had a superb night with the boot, slotting seven kicks from eight attempts, however he will be having nightmares about his blunder which gifted the Hurricanes an easy try.
Dropping back to regather a kick, Munro opted to step Andre Taylor rather than kicking the ball into touch which had disastrous consequences.
Taylor managed to cling onto Munro’s jersey and bring him down, and as the ball squirted out in the tackle, Cory Jane was on hand to pounce on it and brush off his good mate Piri Weepu to score in the corner.
Two Munro penalty goals restored the Blues’ lead but a try to Conrad Smith on the stroke of halftime saw the visitors take a 19-16 lead into the sheds at the break.
The Blues turned up the heat in the second half and had the lion’s share of possession and territory, with the Hurricanes’ indiscretions being punished by Munro who slotted three penalty goals to give his side a 25-19 lead with quarter of an hour remaining.
The home side then looked to close out the match as they camped in the opposition’s 22, but they couldn’t find the try line or knock over a drop goal to push the margin out to two scores.
This left the door wide open for the Hurricanes, and when Piri Weepu kicked the ball away with a minute remaining on the clock, Beauden Barrett struck, slicing through the tiring Blues defence and offloading to Conrad Smith for the try to draw the game.
With the siren having just blasted across Eden Park, Barrett then calmly stepped up and slotted the penalty goal to give the Hurricanes the win.