Tana's ton buries Blues
Friday, May 6, 2005 allblacks.com
Two superb, second-half counter-attacking tries ultimately proved the difference between the two sides, and both were taken within two minutes of each other.
Thrills and chills aplenty early as the Blues signalled their all-out intent to attack via wing Joe Rokocoko, and the flyer left stretch-marks all over the defence in just the second minute. Barely 60 seconds later, Umaga was almost gifted the 100th birthday present he so badly wanted... only to watch the potential intercept dip below his fingertips.
Repeated failure by the visitors to find touch - halfback Piri Weepu the main offender - allowed the Blues to keep the torch on and No 12 Luke McAlister to convert his side’s first points, a penalty in the 6th minute.
3-0 Blues. And the home-side charged once more. But this time, Weepu did relieve the pressure with his feet, stealing first the ball and then 20 metres of prime Eden Park real estate. The breakout leads to first-five Jimmy Gopperth’s equaliser.
3-all. And as things began to even up all over the field, a clever pass from Umaga set his outside man, Conrad Smith, loose in the 28th minute. But the young centre couldn’t connect on the inside with powerful No 14 Lome Fa'atau.
The Hurricanes continued to sound a storm warning, yet nine penalties conceded around the rucks and mauls stopped them taking the lead. Instead, crucial passes went to ground for both them and the Blues in the final minutes of first spell, robbing both teams of the game-breaker that had to come.
Thanks to a collision from Fa’atau and Blues replacement fullback Isa Nacewa, Ben Herring had the first reason to smile in the second 40. In true loose forward fashion, the flanker was right on the spot to collect the leftovers from a skilful grubber-kick (his own) and score in the 43rd minute.
The Blues were back in town big-time, gaining plenty of possession and territory. But whether running inside channels or attempting to feed those waiting overlaps, handling errors continued to let them down.
The 55th minute, and one Blues turnover too many saw Weepu free Fa’atau down the left-hand chalk. The big man turned Rokocoko inside-out, before Umaga joined the 68m party, playing the crucial link-man to allow both Smith and Fa’atau to handle again before the latter stretched over for a superb try.
Almost from the restart, Weepu busted once more for Smith to come within a blade of Eden Park grass of the Hurricanes third try. No matter. The No 9 coolly dabbed blindside and put lock Ross Kennedy over instead. This time, Gopperth’s conversion is good: 22-3 Hurricanes.
A quarter of the match remaining, and it was time for the Hurricanes up-front defence to shine, the pack holding off repeated assaults on their line before Nacewa finally hit back for the Blues in the 71st minute.
Five minutes later as the Blues continued their frenzied attempts to breakthrough, Umaga was subbed-off off by coach Colin Cooper to rapturous applause from every man, woman and child in the crowd.
And even on the sideline, Umaga's spirit saw the defence hold on for a historic victory.
Final score: 22-10 Hurricanes.
Hurricanes. Tries: Ben Herring, Lome Fa’atau, Ross Kennedy. Conversions: Jimmy Gopperth (2). Penalties: Gopperth.
Blues. Tries: Isa Nacewa. Conversions: Luke Mcalister. Penalties: McAlister.
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