Rugby: Blues bust road woes

The Blues celebrate a drought-busting win in Perth. Photo / Getty
The Blues celebrate a drought-busting win in Perth. Photo / Getty

Force 14
Blues 40

Sixteen months of road woes have come to an end for the Blues but it could still be too little too late.

The Blues blew the Force off the field in the first quarter in Perth overnight, emerging from the international break with more energy than they had shown for much of the Super Rugby season.

After 13 straight losses away from Auckland, the Blues gave themselves a sniff of the playoffs but an earlier bout of home sickness may yet prove their undoing. While moving ahead of the defending champion Chiefs in the Super Rugby standings, they remain a win away from a top-six backlog with two games to play.

And with those fixtures coming against the Crusaders and Chiefs, Sir John Kirwan's men still face a tough ask. It could've been so different had they previously found a way to bring the verve with which they arrived in Perth overnight.

The match was clearly won inside the opening 17 minutes but what would have really impressed Kirwan was the string of play that followed the four-try salvo in the first quarter.

While the Blues were quite brilliant with ball in hand in the game's nascent stages, it was when they were put on the defensive that they truly wrapped up the points.

Being forced to spend close to 10 minutes defending inside their own 22, the Blues already held a 26-point lead. A side of lesser commitment might have folded, looking at the scoreboard and leaving room for a mental lapse to allow the opposition back into the game, but the Blues hung tough.

They appeared to be off the hook when, after double-digit phases close to the line, some damaging defence from the outstanding Jerome Kaino forced the home side into touch. But even when the resulting lineout was lost, the Blues rebounded and forced another turnover through the equally impressive Patrick Tuipulotu.

It was the type of dogged defence the Blues have been missing for so long on the road and it was only appropriate after the attacking outburst that began the game, when the visitors' expansive and explosive backline came to the fore.

First Ihaia West was the benefactor of a generous bounce, then a couple of charge-downs from Alby Mathewson kicks saw Charlie Faumuina bust his way over, before Lolagi Visinia reaped the rewards of a smart straightening run from West.

By the time Ma'a Nonu eluded three tacklers to score his side's fourth, the match seemed over as a contest. It wasn't just the deficit - it was the complete nature of control.

Second-half tries from Luke Braid and Pita Ahki emphasised that domination but running up the score in Perth may not yet be enough.

Force 14 (Charles, Stander tries; Hayward 2 cons)
Blues 40 (West, Faumuina, Visinia, Nonu, Braid, Ahki tries; West 5 cons)
HT: 0-26

- APNZ

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