Blues snatch Brisbane Tens title, beating Hurricanes after final hooter

Blues snatch Brisbane Tens title, beating Hurricanes after final hooter

The Blues have won something. Do not rub your eyes.

It's preseason, but momentum continues to build for the Auckland-based franchise, after they came away title winners at the Brisbane Tens, defeating the Hurricanes in dramatic style in Saturday night's final.

Without a Super Rugby playoff appearance since 2011, the laughing stock of the Kiwi franchises gave their confidence another injection as the season draws closer, with a fine showing at Suncorp Stadium, which concluded with a 10-7 final victory, thanks to a try after the fulltime siren from George Moala.

A week after hammering the Chiefs in their first warmup game of the season in Te Kuiti, Tana Umaga's troops - wildcard veteran Carlos Spencer in tow - were quite a polished and exciting unit in the 10-a-side form.

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After outclassing the Reds 29-7 and the Panasonic Wild Knights 47-10 on Friday, they powered on on day two to down the Rebels 29-7, then the Reds 22-10 in their semifinal, before pipping the Canes at the death - having not led at all in the match till that dramatic last moment.

Exciting first-year Hurricanes prop Alex Fidow opened the scoring in the fifth minute from a well-worked lineout move and Jackson Garden-Bachop added the extras from out wide, with the Hurricanes taking that 7-0 lead to halftime.

Three minutes into the second spell the Blues' Michael Tamoaeita was sin binned for a high tackle, but they held firm, then got on the board via Akira Ioane with three minutes left.

Jonathan Ruru was unable to convert from the left touch, but Sam Nock soon later came up trumps by pressuring Jamie Booth into an error post-scrum, then the Blues had Moala as a hero, wriggling his way through the clutches of three Canes tacklers to get up and touch down.

It was a fitting finish to a tournament which featured some decent footy, despite the second year of sparse crowds being an obvious eyesore for the dress-up, carnival atmosphere on offer, and also a certain financial concern halfway through the four-year contract for Brisbane.

There were marks stamped by several youngsters aspiring to play franchise footy this year, with the likes of tournament MVP Caleb Clarke (Blues), Fidow (Hurricanes) and Tevita Nabura (Highlanders) showing x-factor galore, while Julian Savea showed he's now well past his best, as George Bridge gave more not-so-subtle glimpses that he's a winger full of class.

In general, the gap between the New Zealand sides and the seven others was obvious, as their pace, skill and defensive organisation stood out. Who knows if the last two days will be any gauge at all on how the teams will fare this year, though the early indications weren't pretty for the Australian units.

After being swept by Kiwi sides in Super Rugby last year, the Aussies then failed to get one-up on any of them in the Tens, that was until the Reds got a couple of controversial home-town calls to help lock Angus Blyth to two tries, and his team to a 19-7 quarterfinal win over the defending champion Chiefs.

Along with the Waratahs, the Reds had just snuck into the finals - two of seven teams, including the Highlanders, who had one win from three pool games, with Fiji finishing as the only winless side.

In contrast, the three-from-three Chiefs were unlucky to have been made to play the extra game after missing out on a top-two qualification spot on points differential to the Blues and Crusaders, and that bad fortune seemingly followed them onto the park.

The other quarterfinal saw the Hurricanes hold off the Waratahs 35-24 in the highest scoring game of the tournament's two-year history, and make it three Kiwi sides for the semis, as the rain began to fall.

With just an hour between their quarterfinals and semifinals, the Reds and Hurricanes then had their work cut out, with the former falling to the Blues 22-10, before the latter managed to rise to the challenge, with Jamie Booth's double inspiring them to a 14-10 victory and a spot in the decider.

With the cobwebs getting close to fully blown, the teams will now head into their final pre-season matches, with Super Rugby kicking off next Sunday, with a South African-conference-only round, before the New Zealand sides get into action the following weekend.

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