A late try to lock James Broadhurst snatched a 38-35 victory for the Hurricanes over the Blues in an encouraging first pre-season hit-out in Masterton today.
A young and inexperienced Blues outfit overcame a 19-0 deficit to score 35 unanswered points in a thrilling 40 minute spell.
However the Hurricanes finished with a wet sail, former Blues midfielder Hadleigh Parkes crossing before James Broadhurst got the raucous 6000-strong Masterton crowd on their feet with a try eight minutes from fulltime to clinch the victory.
The question on everyone’s mind heading into the game was how Benji would perform in his first game of rugby, and he impressed in a strong first half.
The former Wests Tigers playmaker showed his trademark flair and hot stepping ability without shirking the responsibilities of hitting rucks and making his tackles.
He controlled the game well in the opening encounters as the Blues dominated territory and looked incredibly dangerous with the ball in hand.
However their ambition to throw high risk passes proved costly as the Hurricanes pounced on a couple of spilled balls and made the visitors pay, scoring three tries against the run of play.
Down 19-0 at the 20 minute mark, the Blues showed plenty of resolve to hit back as their potent backline began to click on the back of a hard working forward pack led well by Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Kane Barrett.
Marshall put young livewire wing Tevita Li through a hole to score, before George Moala made one of a number of barnstorming runs and fed Lolagi Visinia who crossed the whitewash.
Shifting from his usual position of wing to centre, Moala was unstoppable today, his deft footwork and pure power wreaking havoc with the Hurricanes backline.
Moala capitalised on a batted down ball to score just before halftime, and the Blues started from where they left off to score again just minutes after the break.
One again it was Moala who created the Blues’ fourth try, breaking four tackles and charging downfield as Northland halfback Sonatane Tokulua finished off the movement to go over under the posts.
A piece of Albert Nikoro magic where he scooped up the ball and flicked it with one hand put Li over for his second try of the game as the Blues built an impressive 35-19 lead.
However with the coaches rolling the changes and a number of injuries forcing a reshuffled backline that saw Bryn Hall playing on the wing, the Hurricanes began to control possession as the momentum swung in their favour.†
Parkes crashed over after a sustained period of pressure, before the towering lock Broadhurst scored the match winner eight minutes from fulltime.
The Blues now head to Sydney to face the Waratahs in their second pre-season match on Friday.