The Hurricanes were made to pay dearly for their lack of discipline, as the Blues won a scrappy all-New Zealand derby 24-15 in Wellington on Saturday.
For the Blues it is a significant win, coming after they travelled all the way back from South Africa – where they had won both their matches, against the Bulls and Stormers.
The Hurricanes will be fuming at the lost opportunity – their lack of discipline seeing them reduced to 14 men for most of the second half, 13 men for the last 12 minutes and even down to 12 men for a period in the last 10 minutes.
The Blues, for so-long the under-achievers of New Zealand rugby, had their cause helped by the Hurricanes ill-discipline.
Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax was red-carded for foul play early in the second half – a no-arm, shoulder charge directly to the head of an opponent.
That was followed by another no-arms tackle/shoulder charge that saw Vaea Fifita in the 68th minute.
He was joined on the naughty chair when fullback Jordie Barrett cost his team a penalty try and the remainder of the game in the bin for a deliberate slap-down in the 74th minute.
The result is a momentous one for the Blues as it ends a nine-match losing streak against the Hurricanes which started in March 2015.
The Auckland-based side has unearthed a new self-belief.
Captain Patrick Tuipulotu said there is a new determination within the side.
“There’s certainly a difference in mood. It’s a good feeling,” he said.
“What I’m most happy with is we managed to keep our composure especially in tough times. Certainly, in past years we probably wouldn’t have.”
Akira Ioane and Mark Telea crossed the whitewash for the Blues and they were also awarded a penalty try, while Otere Black succeeded with two conversions and a penalty.
For the Hurricanes, Ben Lam and Kobus van Wyk scored tries and Jordie Barrett added a conversion and a penalty.
The match started brightly for the Hurricanes, who opened the scoring after just two minutes courtesy of Lam’s try after Ngani Laumape and Vaea Fifita laid the groundwork with strong carries in the build-up.
In the 37th minute, a rare foray from the Blues into the home side’s 22 resulted in a converted try from close quarters from Akira Ioane which meant the visitors were leading 7-5.
From the restart, Du’Plessis Kirifi did well to win a breakdown penalty and Jordie Barrett was successful off the kicking tee which gave his side a slender lead at the interval.
The Hurricanes were dealt a big blow in the 46th minute when Lomax received his marching orders for his illegal hit on Perofeta.
In the 56th minute, the visitors regained the lead when Telea gathered a well-timed pass from Rieko Ioane, before crossing for his side’s second try.
Despite their numerical advantage, the Blues still committed several mistakes which kept the Hurricanes in the match and in the 63rd minute Van Wyk dotted down out wide.
Barrett’s successful conversion meant the hosts were now leading 15-14, but they soon surrendered that lead when Black slotted a penalty after Fifita was yellow-carded for a no-arms hit on James Parsons.
Just before full-time, the Blues secured victory when referee Mike Fraser awarded them a penalty try after a deliberate knock-on from Barrett which also resulted in him spending time in the sin bin.
Man of the match: Du’Plessis Kirifi produced an amazing workrate, winning two turnovers. Hurricanes captain Thomas Perenara had his moments, although his frustration also started the show late in the game. Our award goes to Blues openside flank Blake Gibson, who had a couple of decent carries and made some crucial try-saving tackles and turnovers – moments that turned the game.
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Lam, Van Wyk
For the Blues:
Tries: Ioane, Telea, Penalty try
Cons: Black 2, penalty try does not require a conversion
Yellow cards: Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes, 68 – foul play, no-arms tackle), Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes, 74 – cynical foul, deliberate knock-down)
Red card: Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes, 46 – foul play, shoulder charge to the head)
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11
Ben Lam, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Gareth
Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Isaia
Walker-Leawere, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Billy Proctor, 23 Wes Goosen.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Joe
Marchant, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Thomas Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere
Black, 9 Sam Nock; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5
Jacob Pierce, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt
Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)