Auckland dent Hurricanes' Super 15 play-off hopes
File picture shows Auckland Blues player Jerome Kaino (L) being tackled by S'bura Sithole of the Coastal Sharks during their Super 15 match at Albany Stadium in Auckland on May 23, 2014 - by Michael Bradley
It was a remarkable form reversal for the 'Canes a week after they thrashed the defending champions Waikato Chiefs 45-8, as they tasted a similar hiding from the bottom-placed New Zealand side.
They still picked up a four-try bonus-point to remain in the top six, while the Blues, who remain unbeaten at home but are winless away this season, are in the bottom half of the table but within striking distance of the play-offs.
With the competition now shutting down for the June Test window, rival captains Luke Braid and Conrad Smith cut contrasting figures as the contemplated what lies ahead when the remaining three rounds resume.
"We really needed the bonus point win going into the June break. We'll come back in and go for it," said Blues skipper Braid, adding their season was "definitely" still alive although two of their last three games are away.
"We blew it," said Hurricanes leader Smith, whose side has only two games and a non-point scoring bye remaining.
"We should have won tonight and we didn't so it's going to be tough."
The 'Canes' trademark quick passing and counter-attacking flair lacked accuracy which the desperate Blues were quick to pounce on.
After Faifili Levave scored first for the Hurricanes from a lineout drive, the Blues struck with two quick tries when the visitors were down to 14 men with fullback Matt Proctor in the sin-bin.
The first was a penalty try when Proctor was judged to have deliberately knocked the ball on when getting a hand to a pass from Ma'a Nonu to Bryn Hall close to the line.
The second try went to fullback Lolagi Visinia running on to a kick from Peter Ahki behind the 'Canes defences.
A conversion and penalty to Ihaia West, having his first Super 15 start, had the Blues ahead 15-7 inside the first quarter.
They were not to score again until early in the second half when another two-try burst secured their bonus point and stretched out the lead to 27-7.
Jerome Kaino's try came when he finished off a move he started with a pick-and-go on the half-way while George Moala's try was a long-range solo run.
The 'Canes finally found their rhythm going into the final quarter and produced tries to Julian Savea, Ardie Savea and Levave for a second time.
But the Blues also kept putting points on the board with a try to Patrick Tuipulotu and a conversion and penalty by West.