Rugby: Blues score 70 in Northland hitout

By Andrew Johnsen

Lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti in action for the Blues. The Blues beat the Northland Barbarians 73-8 at Toll Stadium. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti in action for the Blues. The Blues beat the Northland Barbarians 73-8 at Toll Stadium. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The Blues showed no signs of rust on attack as they cruised to a 73-8 victory over the Northland Barbarians at Toll Stadium.

However, despite what the score line showed, they wouldn't be happy with how often the Barbarians broke the line in the first half.

The match, essentially doubling as a trial for the Northland Mitre 10 Cup side, was played at a frenetic pace as both sides decided to chance their arm.

The Blues took every opportunity to shift the ball wide early, fullback Melani Nanai and centre Michael Little dangerous with ball in hand.

Kara Pryor was an absolute menace at his home ground; breaking the line, getting amongst the rucks and scoring a pair of tries.

Piers Francis put on a clinic at first five, controlling the pace of the game with incisive passing and kicking.

Line breaks were a constant fixture of the match, both sides busting through with relative ease.

Nanai was a constant threat at the back for the Blues, utilising his size and speed to put himself and others around him into space.

The Blues crossed for four first half tries through Nanai, Pryor, Billy Guyton and Tevita Li, while winger Wisea Lawabuca crossed for his side's sole try.

Nanai crossed early in the second half and then the substitutes kept rolling in.

The Blues pack were certainly hungrier for the ball and were a lot more accurate at the breakdown, forcing a lot of turnovers.

As a whole, the second half was messier.

The Blues held onto possession for the majority of the spell, however they couldn't convert as often as they should have despite scoring 47 second half points.

Blake Gibson made a successful return to the field after a six week layoff, scoring a late try.

To the Barbarians credit, their effort never waivered throughout the match.

Blues coach Tana Umaga tipped his hat to the Barbarians for their efforts and felt the game was a great hit out for both teams.

"We haven't had a great history of starting well when we come up here but that's credit to the Barbarians, who hung in there and didn't give up," he said.

"Our players were short of a gallop, and have been on a diet of little club rugby, so it took us a while to get going."

"It was a priceless contest for us as nothing replaces on-field rugby."

Flanker Hoani Matenga hobbled off late in the piece but Umaga was hopeful it was just cramp.

"We had no major injuries, but there were a lot of guys with cramp. So hopefully we get them and our All Blacks back not too banged up."

The Blues face the Hurricanes next Saturday in Wellington.

Blues 73 (Kara Pryor 2, Melani Nanai 2, Matt Vaega 2, Lolagi Visinia, Blake Gibson, Bryn Hall, Billy Guyton, Tevita Li tries, Hall 5 cons, Piers Francis 4 con)

Northland Barbarians 8 (Wisea Lawabuca try, Peter Breen pen)

- NZ Herald

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