Blues down Hurricanes in Wellington opener

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(Reuters) - The Auckland Blues cut loose with three tries in the second half to beat the Wellington Hurricanes 31-16 in their Super Rugby Aotearoa opener in the New Zealand capital on Saturday.

Winger Caleb Clarke and fullback Stephen Perofeta both crossed in the first 15 minutes of the second half to overhaul an 11-7 deficit, and centre Rieko Ioane put a gloss on the win three minutes from time.

The Hurricanes, captained for the first time by Ardie Savea, had two tries from wrecking-ball hooker Asafo Aumua but paid the price for ill-discipline with James Blackwell and Du'Plessis Kirifi both spending 10 minutes in the sinbin.

The game looked like being a try-fest at the start with Dalton Papalii scoring a try for the Blues and Aumua responding for the home side inside the first six minutes.

The Blues had the better of the rest of the half but could not convert their chances and two booming penalty kicks from Jordie Barrett, the first from the halfway line, gave the Hurricanes a slender at the break.

Clarke had the simplest finish of his young career nine minutes after the resumption, when an Otere Black crosskick found him unmarked in the corner and Perofeta finished off a slick attacking move for a converted try that took the lead to 21-11.

Aumua hit back for the Hurricanes with his second try just after the hour mark. Barrett looked unfortunate to have his high, curling conversion ruled unsuccessful.

Hurricanes fullback Barrett was left ruing a misjudged crosskick in the 77th minute after Rieko Ioane snapped up the loose ball and raced 60 metres to score.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by William Mallard)