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Hurricanes pushed hard for bonus point win

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Lynn McConnell     14 Mar 2015     Getty Images

It was the first time the Hurricanes had won their opening four Investec Super Rugby games of the season.

If ever a game bore out the difference a New Zealand derby can make it was this and if there is a better off-the-bench replacement than loose forward Blade Thomson, who set up Savea's try, then he must be very good.

Thomson was perfectly placed to deliver an in-pass to Savea for the winning try to be scored.

That said it had to be acknowledged the Blues looked a changed team. They weren't so hesitant, and demonstrated more intent. The Hurricanes looked as if they had some edge taken off their game as a result of the bye.

Pressure had its impact on both sides. After an impressive build-up midway through the second half, and at a point where they could have locked up the game, the Hurricanes paid the price for impatience with second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu knocking the ball on.

It wasn't any better for the Blues soon after following an impressive set piece play which saw second five-eighths Francis Saili running onto a pass from the base of the lineout. The play was rumbled down field, and then at the most likely looking stage it was centre Charles Piutau who knocked on.

Even the goal-kickers felt the pressure with first five-eighths Beauden Barrett missing a handy penalty chance and a conversion, and Blues opposite Ihaia West missing two chances.

Moving the ball from their own 22m area after a re-start following first five-eighths Beauden Barrett's first penalty goal of the game, the Hurricanes initially demonstrated the difference between their confidence and the Blues lack of it.

Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder entered the backline and linked with Nonu. Lock James Broadhurst contributed in mid-field with a pass rolled along the ground where centre Conrad Smith tidied and headed back infield.

Milner-Skudder was still in support and moved the ball to wing Savea. Halfback TJ Perenara was up in support and worked a dummy and headed for the goal-line to score the opening try.

But Blues fullback Lolagi Visinia breathed some life and confidence into his side. He had some reward for his solid early defence when latching onto a looping pass as the Hurricanes attack and with the ball secure from the intercept he raced 80m to score.

The lift to the Blues was evident when they started to tear into rucks and mauls and when halfback Jimmy Cowan went wide to take a wobbly ball from No.8 Steven Luatua. He cut back in and fed flanker Brendan O'Connor. He charged ahead and flicked the ball to wing Frank Halai who used his full head of steam to charge through the defence to score.

It seemed the Blues would take a lead to the half-time break, but with playing moved to and fro with advantage and tap penalties being applied, the clock was on 43 minutes when Barrett slipped a chip kick through and in the chase for the ball wing Matt Proctor bumped off Visinia's covering tackle and bounced over for the try which Barrett converted from out wide.

West landed a 48m penalty goal six minutes into the second half, but the home responded superbly when from an untidy lineout the ball was secured. Nonu flicked a neat backhand pass to Milner-Skudder running hard into a gap. The defence was pierced and Julian Savea touched down for one of the easier tries he will score.

Hooker Dane Coles was rampant with the ball in hand while Milner-Skudder was busy throughout and up front Reg Goodes did some effective work at the breakdown while Perenara's speed around the ground in support was outstanding. Luke Braid was outstanding for his side in the loose while Steven Luatua stepped up with a strong game while Visinia, Piutau and Saili had some strong contributions.

Scorers: Hurricanes 30 (TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Julian Savea 2 tries; Beauden Barrett 2 con, 2 pen) Blues 23 (Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai tries; Ihaia West 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 18-17