It was a crunch game for the Hurricanes and could have been nothing more than a nice send-off for Robin Brooke and Craig Dowd, for the Blues. As usual, it was raining in Auckland and an undisclosed number of patrons had trudged their way to that oddly-shaped suburban folly known as Eden Park.
Both teams would have had the same game plan in the atrocious conditions: kick for territory and don"t try any heroics in your own "22. For the first 20 minutes, the Hurricanes largely stuck to this plan. Although a few tackles had been missed and a number of aimless kicks made, the visitors were up 11-6 at the end of the first quarter, following a try to Filo TiaTia.
Things rapidly went pear-shaped. In a move which would have been risky but plausible at home, where it hasn"t really rained for months, the Hurricanes" backline tried to run the ball 5 metres out from their own goal line. There was an overlap and the try was probably on, but the ball was fumbled and 5 points were conceded to their drenched opponents. Shortly afterwards, a similar move resulted in a try to Ron Cribb for the Blues, who led the Hurricanes 18-11 at the half.
Whatever Graham Mourie said to the lads at halftime while the cheerleaders were happily gyrating in the lake which had covered Eden Park outside, can"t have been rude enough. In fact things deteriorated dramatically in the second spell. Norm Hewitt savaged four of his own throws, conceding vital possession, and the Blues began to play like the niggly, pro-fouling bastards we know they are capable of being. In fact, Robin Brooke was warned three times for indiscretions close to his goal line. This bodes well for the future of New Zealand rugby. Finally, Auckland are playing like professionals again.
With only 15 minutes remaining, the score was 21-17 to the Blues. Under pressure again, the Hurricanes wilted. The backs tried suicidal moves and became isolated while the forwards hung around uselessly, like slightly bedraggled vultures. A try was conceded to Flavell and, annoyingly right on time, to bloody Doug Howlett. The final score: 36-17 and the Hurricanes had arsed up another Super 12.
Of course their fans still think they"re great and will fill up the Stadiums next season for another entertaining crack at the elusive trophy. Besides, if they won all the time people would get bored, like they did in Auckland and Canterbury (remember the NPC final last year?), and we couldn"t have that. In fact, the whole thing is probably a clever marketing ploy......
See you all at the National Stadium for the test against France on 30 June.