SRA: Laumape’s power and pace stuns Blues

Jordie Barrett’s sideline conversion to secure a 27-25 win over the Blues in Wellington’s Saturday night Super Rugby Aotearoa thriller gave him bragging rights over older brother Beauden.

It has been an outstanding season for the 6ft 5in Jordie who is reminding the All Blacks selectors that brother Beauden and Damian McKenzie are not the only ones wanting the No 15 jersey.

Go further south and Crusaders fans are also making a case for David Havilii and fast young gun Will Jordan.

However the man who stamped his mark on this match was nuggety juggernaut No 12 Ngani Laumape who continues to challenge talented Anton Lienert-Brown and  Josh Goodhue for a midfield berth.

Others in the mix are speedster centres Rieko Ioane and Braydon Ennor.

Laumape started Saturday night’s game by standing up Beauden Barrett and outsprinting him over 45m to crash across for a magnificent try in Otere Black’s tackle.

He has been criticised for being too quiet and not as good a ball distributor as Lienert-Brown and Goodhue. Which is fair comment although none can match his bruising power.

It was a shame the boorish 20,000 crowd should boo Beauden the first time he touched the ball after so many years as a lionised Hurricanes hero before his move to Auckland. But he soon quietened them with a beautiful dummy and sprint that brought the Blues first try,

In the end it was four tries each with Jordie’s final conversion the clincher to cement a fine personal contribution after his team dominated possession and territory against the Blues staunch defence.

The win was deserved though how referee Ben O’Keefe could see Asafo Aumua ground the ball under a sea of bodies for the final try defied belief.

Ngani Laumape shows up Beauden Barrett for pace in the Hurricanes v Blues match on Saturday. Photo RugbyPass

The Blues missed injured No 8 Hoskins Sotutu’s general excellence on a night lively Ardie Savea outplayed Akira Ioane and the excellent Dalton Papalii had a great tussle with the lively Du Plessis Kirifi.

Before this match, Papalii had made 48 tackles while flanker Papalii and prop Alex Hodgman rated sixth equal among SR Aotearoa tacklers with 42.

Former All Black Papalii is a workaholic grinder rather than a shiner but possesses fine all-round qualities and few weaknesses.

The Blues coaching staff have done a fine job this year although I remain puzzled why Harry Plummer has started the last two games at No 12 ahead of TJ Faiane who is a natural leader and has good instincts in broken play. Still it’s pleasing the Blues have genuine depth with hooker Kurt Eklund another who has stepped up since James Parson’s injury.

Meanwhie the Highlanders achieved the comeback of the year with a last minute converted try that secured a dramatic 33-31 victory against a Chiefs side that had led 24-0 in as many minutes.

It produced another master class from halfback Aaron Smith whose speed of pass and thought was inspiring and some nice touches from Josh Ioane when he came off the bench.

Regarded as a redeemer for Wales and the Lions, coach Warren Gatland’s homecoming has been bleak with his Chiefs now having lost six consecutive games during his reign as mentor.

However with fewer penalties being awarded over the weekend for breakdown offences, the game has become faster and more rewarding for players and fans.

 Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sportswriter and author