Blues beat Hurricanes to keep Semi hopes alive



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The Blues scored a pulsating 19-17 win over the Hurricanes Friday to keep their Super 14 semi-final hopes alive and put a big dent in the Hurricanes’ play-off ambitions.

The win, in which attacking flair was thwarted by desperate defence, put the Blues into third place in the table, one point behind the Hurricanes.

But both teams could potentially slip out of the top four depending on other results over the weekend.

Blues captain Troy Flavell said he was happy with the result, despite missing out on what could be a vital bonus point.

“We didn’t get the five points but got a good win and that shows a lot of character in the side,” Flavell said afterwards.

“Midseason we were looking down in the dumps, but we fought our way back into this competition and the next 48 hours is probably going to determine our future going into the semis.”

In a match of great intensity in front of a crowd of 37,000 at Eden Park, the Blues kept the Hurricanes scoreless in the second spell. A solitary 59th minute penalty from fullback Nick Evans gave them the lead they never relinquished.

Three desperate drop goal attempts by Hurricanes flyhalf Willie Ripia in the final three minutes all went astray, dashing their hopes of a home semi-final.

The Blues dominated early, partly through the superior tactical kicking of Evans, who opened the scoring with the first of his four penalties in the fifth minute.

Momentum swung back to the Hurricanes with winger Hosea Gear conjuring two quickfire tries virtually out of nothing in the 17th and 19th minutes.

The first saw Gear collect the ball 40 metres out, scuttle across field, before straightening and outpacing the cover defence to score a try, which was converted by halfback Piri Weepu.

Two minutes later a long raking kick from Weepu was picked up by Evans inside his own 22, but Gear charged down his attempted clearance and followed it up to make the try.

But Blues lock Anthony Boric hit back after 23 minutes, crashing through three Hurricanes tackles to make the score 14-10.

Blues number eight Nick Williams was sinbinned after 31 minutes for repeated offences at the breakdown, but just before half time he was joined by Hurricanes fullback Tamati Ellison who was given 10 minutes for obstruction.

Two more penalties for the Blues and one for the Hurricanes left the score at 17-16 at half time.

The Blues twice came agonisingly close to scoring tries in the 46th and 47th minutes when winger David Smith was held up over the line and Jerome Kaino’s foot went into touch as he tried to force the touchdown.

But it was Evans’ penalty that grabbed the win in the second half.

Sapa-AFP –

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