24 May 2015

Hurricanes breeze past Blues into playoffs

9:22 am on 24 May 2015

Ma'a Nonu celebrated joining Tana Umaga as having played the most games for the Hurricanes as his side qualified for the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time since 2009 with a 29-5 win over the Blues at Eden Park.

It was the All Black midfielder's 122nd appearance for the Hurricanes, who maintained their 13 point lead at the top of the standings.

Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara clears a ruck against the Blues

Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara clears a ruck against the Blues Photo: Photosport

Very wet as well as windy conditions in Auckland made things tough for both teams, and an early penalty to Hurricanes first five Otere Black was the only score, until five minutes before half-time.

Then the Hurricanes struck with two close range tries, the first to prop Chris Eves, the other to All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara.

Black was in his first start as a late replacement in a backline reshuffle, after the All Black wing Cory Jane was ruled out late on Thursday.

Nehe Milner-Skudder replaced him on the right wing with last week's No.10 James Marshall shifting back to fullback.

But Black showed few nerves as he converted both tries for a 17-0 lead at the break.

Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush soars high to secure a lineout

Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush soars high to secure a lineout Photo: Photosport

Hooker Dane Coles opened the second-half scoring with their third try on 55 minutes, before the Blues got one back through replacement Matt Vaega nine minutes later.

But right wing Milner-Skudder then sealed the bonus point 29-5 victory for the visitors within three minutes.

Black's only miss in five kicks came on the conversion.

The Hurricanes become the first team into the playoffs, and one more win next weekend should seal top spot overall too, heading into the finals.

The visitors also set two more franchise records - they've now eclipsed their season-best number of wins with 12, and the veteran Ma'a Nonu also equals fellow All Black midfielder Tana Umaga's record 122 games for the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes have 57 competition points and virtually ensured they would qualify in top place, with only the Chiefs (44) and Highlanders (39) capable of surpassing them on the table with three full rounds of matches remaining.

The Blues' replacement back Matt Vaega scored his side's only try.

The Blues are yet to beat a New Zealand team in 2015.

Also last night the Waratahs all but ended the Crusaders 13-year finals run with a 32-22 win in Sydney, before the Highlanders climbed to third in the overall standings behind the second placed Chiefs with a 23-3 win over the Force in Perth.

This morning the Lions beat the Cheetahs 40-17 in Bloemfontein, before the Stormers beat the

Rebels 31-15 in Cape Town.