By Roger Childs
New Zealand sport is currently the envy of the world. While overseas teams are playing to nearly empty stadiums, matches here have thousands of fans shouting, cheering and waving flags. The resumption of Super Rugby post-Lockdown has seen the fans return in greater numbers than expected, and the sell-out crowd of over 40,000 for the Eden Park clash between the Blues and the Hurricanes was a sight to behold.
The quality of the rugby in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has been high and last night’s Hurricanes – Blues clash at the Cake Tin in Wellington was no exception. It got off to a cracking start and within 10 minutes two excellent tries had been scored. First home team second five Ngani Laumape ran round Blues fullback Beauden Barrett in a brilliant 45 metre sideline dash to the line. Then Barrett made amends with a centre field break from 40 metres out to score under the posts.
The lead chopped and changed, but from 15-15 at half time the Blues, with two impressive forward tries, went ahead and led 27- 22 with six minutes to go. Then, much to the delight of the big home crowd, replacement hooker Asafo Aumua scored from a maul to bring the home side level. Then a superb conversion from the sideline by fullback Jordie Barrett gave the Hurricanes their third win in a row.
This was an excellent match with eight tries in all and plenty of attacking play, especially from the Hurricanes. The home team had the lion’s share of possession and only staunch tackling from the Blues kept the try count down. The battle in the forwards was an even contest but the Hurricanes definitely had the edge in the backs with more line-breaks and inter-passing between forwards and backs.
Crusaders the team to beat
The South Island franchise is the only unbeaten team in the competition and the Hurricanes have the tough challenge of trying to beat them next weekend on their home turf in Christchurch. It’s hard to see Scott Robertson’s well drilled, star-studded Crusaders not running out the winners of Super Rugby Aotearoa, but regardless fans are sure to get plenty of entertaining matches in the remaining four rounds.