Super 14 - Game of the Week
Hurricanes cement top spot
May 1, 2009
Tamati Ellison was on the scoresheet for the Hurricanes
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An exhausted Hurricanes outgunned the Blues 45-27 in Wellington to ensure they will lead the Super 14 two weeks out from the semi-finals. A match high in attacking skill but seriously lacking in defensive prowess saw the hosts run in six tries to four against the ambitious but flawed Blues.
A second straight loss leaves their playoff chances dangling, with two wins needed over the closing fortnight along with other results to go their way. They also lost key lock Ali Williams in the 17th minute to an Achilles tendon injury which could yet have All Blacks selection implications. Already struggling with injury problems but the Blues opted for all-out attack. They chose to run the ball all night, leaving both teams heaving and causing the breakneck scoring rate to dry up in the latter stages.
Braces for fullback Tamati Ellison and centre Ma'a Nonu were highlights of a match which at times transported viewers back to the days when this competition was described by its critics as glorified touch rugby. The Blues have struggled with their defence all year and tonight was no exception as the likes of All Blacks midfield backs Nonu and Conrad Smith took advantage of some excellent work by pack well led by hooker Andrew Hore and flanker Scott Waldrom.
The Blues pack struggled for parity but their backline was menacing all night, with All Blacks Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko and Rudi Wulf making breaks at will. Perhaps the most dangerous of all was winger Rene Ranger, in a remarkable display considering he was excused from appearing in court on an assault charge.
The Blues led after two minutes through a penalty to first five-eighth Jimmy Gopperth but it didn't take long for the floodgates to open. Conrad Smith scooted past opposing centre Anthony Tuitavake for the first try, with the second a reward to Waldrom for quality support of a David Smith break.
Ellison scored after getting a good bounce from a long kick before Rokocoko had the Blues' first after Conrad Smith failed to halt the outstanding Toeava. Nonu snared the Hurricanes' bonus point in just the 21st minute when he strolled under the crossbar while Ellison bagged his team's fifth soon afterwards.
The Blues crossed either side of halftime through Tuitavake and Ranger, closing the margin to 35-20 as they dominated possession. However, tiredness began creeping in for both teams, with Nonu's second try and a penalty to Willie Ripia - his seventh success from seven shots - eventually making the game safe.
The sinbinning of replacement Hurricanes flanker Api Naikatini saw the Blues dominate late and they crossed through Dean Budd in the final act to snare a bonus point.
Hurricanes: Tamati Ellison, Zac Guildford, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, David Smith, Willie Ripia, Alby Mathewson, Rodney So'oialo (capt), Scott Waldrom, Victor Vito, Bryn Evans, Jeremy Thrush, Neemiah Tialata, Andrew Hore, John Schwalger.
Replacements: Ged Robinson, Jacob Ellison, Jason Eaton, Api Naikatini, Piri Weepu, Jason Kawau, Robert Fruean.
Blues: Rudi Wulf, Rene Ranger, Anthony Tuitavake, Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko, Jimmy Gopperth, Taniela Moa, Jerome Kaino, Tom Chamberlain, Kurtis Haiu, Ali Williams, Jay Williams, Tevita Mailau, Keven Mealamu (capt), Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Charlie Faumuina, Dean Budd, Peter Saili, Grayson Hart, Michael Hobbs, Paul Williams