Rugby: Blues upset sloppy Hurricanes

Piri Weepu of the Blues lines up a kick during his team's Super 15 match against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Piri Weepu of the Blues lines up a kick during his team's Super 15 match against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Hold on, that wasn't meant to happen.

Sir John Kirwan's Blues provided the first major upset of the Super Rugby season as they toppled an unimpressive Hurricanes outfit 34-20 at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Mark Hammett's Hurricanes made life difficult for themselves throughout the contest as they fell off tackles, dropped the ball numerous times and generally played with a lack of cohesion.

Considering the Hurricanes had the lowest player turnover of any New Zealand franchise heading in to this season it seemed unfathomable that they could have such little continuity.

Their backs attacked laterally and nobody wanted to play with any direction, which made it hard for the Hurricanes to find a rhythm.

Much of the pre-season mail about the Blues suggested they would play a physical style of game and they didn't disappoint and when Frank Halai crossed for his second try of the game in the 76th minute it capped a dream start to the job for Kirwan.

It was also a nice moment for Halai, who was controversially sent to the sin bin mid-way through the second half for batting the ball back over the dead ball line as he and Julian Savea raced to force the pill first.

Halai's indiscretion gave the Hurricanes a penalty try and a 20-16 lead with just over 20 minutes to play but the Blues showed the sort of character Kirwan would have been proud of to claw their way back in to the game.

The opening 40 minutes was indicative of early season rugby as both sides dropped the ball at regular intervals as the players battled to get out of first gear.

The Blues started with their expected youthful exuberance and caught the Hurricanes by surprise with their direct running through the midfield, while loose forwards Steven Luatua and Peter Saili carried the ball with authority.

After both sides exchanged early penalty goals wing Halai ensured the Blues were the first team to cross the chalk when he crashed over in the 21st minute following some smart work from George Moala and Rene Ranger.

Halai was highly impressive when he played for the New Zealand sevens side at Westpac Stadium last year and he showed he can transfer his skills to the 15s game.

Hurricanes wing Savea wasn't to be upstaged though and he helped the home side answer back only minutes later when he finished off a sweeping move in the corner.

Barrett's sideline conversion gave the Hurricanes some breathing space but a second penalty goal from Weepu ensured the Blues went in to the half-time break down by only two points.

During the start of the second spell the Hurricanes barely got their hands on the ball for the opening 10 minutes and during that period the momentum began to swing to the visitors.

Despite Halai's sin-binning the Hurricanes failed to score any points during the 10 minutes they had an extra man on the paddock, which summed up their evening.

It's a long competition and one performance doesn't make a team but Kirwan's Blues showed they will push sides who underestimate them this year, while the Hurricanes have plenty of work to do.

Blues 34 (Frank Halai 2, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger tries; Piri Weepu 4 pens, con) Hurricanes 20 (Julian Savea try, penalty try; Beauden Barrett 2 pen, 2 con) HT: 11-13

- Daniel Richardson of APNZ