A double to Hurricanes captain TJ Perenara and two momentous try-scoring rulings have condemned the Blues to a 23-19 loss in Auckland.
The Hurricanes notched their first win of the Super Rugby season, scoring three tries to two in a bruising but often error-filled third-round clash between two sides coming off defeats.
The win appears to have come at a cost, with winger Nehe Milner-Skudder exiting with a serious-looking shoulder injury after 50 minutes. Flanker Brad Shields was also replaced before halftime with a knock.
All Blacks halfback Perenara crossed either side of halftime to maintain his reputation as a finisher. He has crossed for three tries in three games this season, having scored 11 times in 2015.
No.8 Victor Vito scored the other for the Hurricanes, who lacked the territory and possession of the hosts but were more clinical in attack.
They survived a thunderous late assault on the their tryline during the dying minutes, losing Vito to the sin-bin for a professional foul but still held out the desperate Blues, who also boast a one win-two loss record.
As they did in last week’s defeat to the Crusaders, the Blues lacked a cutting edge when it counted most.
They also weren’t helped by a three-from-seven goalkicking return for five-eighth Ihaia West. His two early penalty misses sucked some life from a Blues side who dominated the opening quarter but only led 3-0.
Wing Rene Ranger extended the lead with his first try since returning from two seasons in France before a flurry of Hurricanes points – including a superb Perenara try off Milner-Skudder’s chip ahead – put them 15-8 ahead at halftime.
George Moala then powered over for the Blues who trailed by five points before pivotal decisions by television match official Shane McDermott in reviewing two try-scoring plays.
He ruled Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea – a strong contender as man of the match – hadn’t knocked on in the lead-up to Perenara’s second try even though replays suggested the No.7 had fumbled.
Shortly afterwards, McDermott deemed Lolagi Visinia’s pass to Tevita Li was marginally forward before the winger zoomed 45m to score next to the posts.
His team trailing by 10, West found his radar with successive penalties to set up a grandstand finish.