MARK Abbott scored the first and last tries, including the match winner in the 73rd minute, as the Hurricanes beat the Blues 28-24 on Saturday to strengthen their defence of the Super Rugby title.
The lock crossed for the first try of the match in the third minute, giving the Hurricanes a lead they sustained for more than an hour until Scott Scrafton scored in the 65th minute to put the Blues ahead at 24-21.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes, inspired by All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett, then showed great resilience to win back the lead with Abbott’s second try and to defend their narrow advantage until fulltime.
Barrett scored a first-half try but also picked up his third yellow card in two matches in one that was played at a fast pace but was spoiled by handling errors.
After being shown two yellow cards for professional fouls in last weekend’s win over the New South Wales Waratahs, Barrett was sin-binned in the 28th minute on Saturday for a similar offence.
The Hurricanes led 21-14 — three tries to two — at halftime and were under pressure for most of the second half from the Blues, who were determined to avoid their ninth home loss to a New Zealand rival in their last 10 games at Eden Park.
They closed the Hurricanes’ margin to 21-17 with a penalty on debut to fly-half Bryn Gatland — son of British and Irish Lions coach Wayne Gatland — then seized the lead with Scrafton’s try. But Barrett engineered a breakout from Hurricanes’ territory which resulted in Abbott’s winning score.
“We knew it was going to be an 80-minute performance for us,” Hurricanes captain T.J. Perenara said.
“They really took us to the end but I’m proud of the boys and the way they fought.
“We were under the pump for a big part of the second half but we were able to do enough to get over the line.”
The Blues remain at the bottom of the New Zealand conference after their fifth loss from eight matches.
“We timed it really well, kicking a penalty then getting back down there and scoring a try,” Blues captain James Parson said.
“It took a pretty special play from Beauden to get them down our end and Mark Abbott just made a good decision down the blind.”
Originally published as Abbott the unlikely hero as Canes edge Blues
SOURCE: newsnow sport