Super 15: Blues beat Hurricanes 17-11

Scrumhalf Alby Mathewson scored a try against his former teammates to clinch the Auckland Blues’ 17-11 win over the Wellington Hurricanes in Super 15 rugby on Friday.

Mathewson, who played for the Hurricanes until this season, darted over from a goal-line ruck in the 65th minute to clinch the Blues’ ninth win from 11 matches, to keep them at the top of the championship table at the start of the 12th round.

Hurricanes scrumhalf Tyson Keats lost the ball over the goal-line after the final hooter, missing a try which, if converted, could have given Wellington a win over the top team in the competition for the second week in a row. The Hurricanes beat the Queensland Reds last week.

The lead changed hands twice in the second half of Friday’s match which was spoiled by persistent rain which affected handling and damaged continuity.

Had Keats scored from the last play of the match, the Hurricanes could have added a win over the first-placed Blues to last week’s 28-26 win over the then first-placed Reds, a win which was also clinched with a score in the last minute.

Instead, the Hurricanes were left with only three wins from 11 matches while the Blues remained at the top of the New Zealand conference and of the overall championship, pending the outcome of other matches in the weekend’s round.
Auckland led 9-3 after a first half which was spoiled by errors from both teams. Auckland eked out narrow advantages of territory and possession and were kept in front by the goalkicking of winger Lachie Munro, who was an injury replacement for All Blacks fullback Isaia Toeava and took the kicking duties from the injured Luke McAlister.

The Blues’ lineout was dysfunctional and Wellington took four of their 10 first-half lineout wins from Auckland throws.
The Hurricanes also repeatedly charged down kicks by Mathewson and Blues flyhalf Stephen Brett, while both backlines made handling errors in wet and slippery conditions.

All Blacks winger Hosea Gear scored a 54th-minute try which cut the lead to 9-8 and five minutes later flyhalf Aaron Cruden landed a penalty which put Wellington ahead, 11-9, for the first time in the match.

Auckland took the lead two minutes later with Munro’s fourth penalty—after Keats was sin-binned for a spear tackle—and Mathewson’s try in the 65th gave the Blues a tiny measure of security.

The Blues’ win maintained their unbeaten record against other New Zealand teams this season.

“The Hurricanes are a special team, they’ve got some special players and they’re always tough,” Blues captain Keven Mealamu said.
“It’s never an easy job. Wins aren’t easy to come by this season so we’ll take this one.

“I think the competition is so tough and games are really won in the last 15 minutes, so full credit to the boys. We worked really hard in that last 15 minutes and we’re just going to sneak back home with four points.”

The Blues play the Reds next weekend.

“We probably tried to play too much in the first half and I think both teams made a lot of mistakes and didn’t play too well,” said Wellington captain Andrew Hore, playing his 101st Super rugby game.

“We came back in the second half and some of the reserves came on and sparked it up a bit,” he added. “The first half felt like both teams were stuck in second gear so we felt one of us had to step up.”—Sapa-AP

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