A last-minute converted Conrad Smith try saw the Hurricanes claim a staggering 26-25 win over the Blues at Eden Park on Friday.
A last-minute converted Conrad Smith try saw the Hurricanes claim a superb 26-25 win over the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
Smith was the man of the moment for his team, as the Hurricanes skipper was responsible for putting his side in front 19-16 with a five-pointer on the stroke of at half-time.
But with less than a minute to play, the Blues looked to have the game in the bag after full-back Lachie Munro slotted over three penalties to put the home side back in front 25-19.
That was until Smith capped off his night and secured a bonus point for the visitors with his team's fourth try set up and duly converted by pivot Beauden Barrett for the win.
The visitors had outscored the hosts four tries to one – but Munro landed 20 points through six penalties and a conversion of Ma'a Nonu's try that kept the Blues in front of the majority of the match.
Munro's points tally went someway to atoning for two defensive blunders that had helped keep the Hurricanes in the contest – Cory Jane and Smith both profited from errors by the Blues full-back.
The Blues had come out firing in the first half as Munro landed a penalty and then a conversion after Nonu – who left the Hurricanes in acrimonious circumstances last season – had crashed over from close range after 15 minutes to give the hosts a 10-0 lead.
The Hurricanes response was immediate. From the restart, wing Julian Savea shook off two would-be tacklers before off-loading to Andre Taylor on the halfway line. The full-back stepped on the gas, brushed aside Benson Stanley and rounded Munro before sprinting in for a sensational try in the corner.
Barrett converted only for Munro to land a second penalty to put the Blues 13-7 in front.
Munro, though, was left red in the face after the Hurricanes crossed for their second try seven minutes before the break. Munro coughed up possession after attempting to run Taylor's chip ahead out of his 22, and the ever-alert Jane scooped up the ball and held off Piri Weepu's poor attempted tackle to score.
Again Munro responded with a penalty before another defensive moment he will want to forget as he failed to cope with Tim Bateman's grubber allowing Smith to hack on – with a lucky bounce assisting the All Blacks centre for the try.
Barrett's conversion on the stroke of half-time saw the Hurricanes lead for the first time.
However the Blues and Munro responded brilliantly with three penalties earning them a 25-19 advantage – while Barrett was off-target with a three-pointer of his own.
The Blues seemed set to hold on for the win until a last roll of the dice from the Hurricanes snatched the win. A brilliant counter-attack from Barrett created the space for Smith to race away.
Smith ensured he touched the ball down as close to the posts as he could, allowing Barrett to slot over the crucial conversion.
Pens: Munro 6
Tries: Taylor, Jane, Smith 2
Cons: Barrett 3
Blues: 15 Lachie Munro, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Piri Weepu, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Brad Mika, 7 Daniel Braid (c), 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Gareth Anscombe, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 Hadleigh Parkes.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Michael Bent, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)