Hurricanes 35 (Cooper Flanders 2, Ezra Malo, Tino Savea tries; Harry Godfrey, 2 pen, con, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula 2 con, pen) Blues 27 (Cephus Salaivao, Luron Iosefa, Tevita Taufahema, Quinton Nichols tries; Byron Smith 2 con, pen) HT: 12-10
The Hurricanes defied a stiff first half breeze and showed greater aggression and accuracy to tame the Blues 35-27. In the corresponding fixture last year the Blues won 71-15.
The Blues lineout malfunctioned in the blustery conditions and they were often in retreat at scrum time as the Hurricanes turned with a crucial 12-10 advantage at the interval.
The Blues enjoyed sporadic moments of brilliance in the second-half, but failed to build consistent pressure, out-hustled at the breakdown
The Hurricanes started assertively, maintaining possession for a sustained period. In the fifth minute second-five Riley Higgins thrust his right arm free in a tackle to offload to openside Cooper Flanders for the first try.
The Blues responded with a cracking strike to winger Cephus Salaivao. A skip-pass by centre Leo Gordon caught the Hurricanes napping on the short side. Salaivao beat the last defender in a 40-metre dash.
Higgins was a constant threat for the Hurricanes and a repeat offload saw Ezra Malo profit on the right wing following slick hands from Harry Godfery and Chicago Doyle.
Godfrey is a prodigious goal-kicker and he punished Blues ill-discipline with two 40-metre penalties in the 46th and 48th minutes to make it 18-10 to the Hurricanes.
The worst of the Blues lineout woes cost a try to Tino Savea. A wobbly throw was pilfered by the Hurricanes and the flanker ploughed through like a low-flying bullet.
Blues captain Wallace Sititi tried to inspire a resurgence with a series of bullying charges. Quick tries to Luron Iosefa and Tevita Taufahema sliced the deficit to 28-20. With about ten minutes remaining Flanders ensured victory for the Hurricanes. He burgled a turnover and galloped 25-metres uncontested.
Higgins, Flanders, hooker Raymond Tuputupu, and wing Isi Saumaki were standouts for the Hurricanes. Chlayton Frans battled gamely for the Blues and halfback Dayton Iobu was energetic.
New Zealand Barbarians 43 (Nikora Broughton, Mason Milham, William Gualter, Joel Cobb, Takai Fabish, Tupou Faiana-Lea’aema tries; Josh Jacomb 5 con, pen) Highlanders 24 (Semisi Tupou-Taeiloa, Fabian Holland, Jeremiah Asi tries; Cameron Millar 3 con, pen) HT: 8-14
An inspired second half charged the New Zealand Barbarians to an historic first-ever victory over the Highlanders.
Down 14-8 at the break the Barbarians produced some dazzling attack to win the second-half 35-10.
A try scored by William Gualter from a penalty tap when the Barbarians narrowly led 22-17 demonstrated their superior ambition and ingenuity.
No.8 Nikora Broughton had his back turned to the defence, five-metres out from the Highlanders line, and nonchalantly kicked the ball behind his head and into the hands of the alert centre. It was a complete surprise, one the Highlanders never really recovered from.
Broughton was a beast throughout. In the 26th minute he scored the Barbarians first try, smashing over from a maul after opposite Semisi Tupou-Taeiloa performed the same feat for the Highlanders in the 12th minute.
Shortly after halftime Broughton was involved in a try which forewarned the Highlanders of their impending struggle. Second-five Alfred Nonu powered into a hole linking with Broughton who supplied openside Karl Ruzichto; setting up wing Mason Milham in the corner.
First-five Josh Jacomb played with authority and creativity. Down 17-15 his precise cross-kick to the right wing of Joel Cobb was as good as any. It was the seventh and final lead change of a game that roared to life after a subdued, stumbling start.
Halfback Noah Hotham and lock Fabin Holland were most effective for the Highlanders. The Barbarians eye-catching rally will put the rest of the competition on notice.
Crusaders 32 (Jona Rova, Fletcher Anderson, Joe Brial, Macca Springer tries, Jack Parker 3 con, 2 pen) Chiefs 31 (Levi Rewiti, Thor Manase, Taha Kemara 2, Te Aonui Wharawhara-Muriwai tries; Kemara 3 con) HT: 19-21
A penalty just to the right of the posts, ten-metres out, earned the Crusaders a last-minute 32-31 victory over the Chiefs.
Fittingly the Crusaders imperious scrum would settle the contest. Ahead 31-29 the Chiefs rather recklessly tried to outflank the Crusaders deep inside their own 22 and only secured a scrum after an accidental offside prevented a charge-down try.
The Chiefs scrum, which especially wilted following the replacement of Mason Tupaea, couldn’t hold. Five Jack Parker coolly converted the handy shot and the Crusaders achieved an upset win. Last year they were beaten in the same game 49-28.
The Crusaders scrum was a source of tightheads, penalties and confidence in a tight tussle which saw multiple lead changes.
The first-half was tit for tat with each side scoring three tries, but the Crusaders turning just two behind against the wind.
Crusaders centre Jona Rova was robust and No.8 Joe Brial (son of former Wallaby Michael Brail) scored a try after an inspirational charge down by captain and lock Jack Hannah.
Macca Springer was a standout for the Crusaders in 2021 and the fullback’s chip and chase try, followed by a halfway penalty by Parker, had the Crusaders 29-19 ahead.
Scoreless for almost 40 minutes the Chiefs would rediscover spark via their bench and Taha Kemara. The first-five was especially nimble and his second try coupled with beautiful distribution had the Crusaders scrambling.With seven minutes remaining a charge-down try created by Te Aonui Wharawhara-Muriwai and Thor Manase put the Chiefs 31-29 in front.
Day two kicks off on Wednesday 25 May with the Barbarians taking on the Crusaders from 11am, the Chiefs and Hurricanes go to battle at 1pm and the Blues and Highlanders face off at 3pm. All games will again take place at Taupō's Owen Delany Park and will be live on Sky Sport.