Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Ruthless Blues too quick for Cheetahs

Blues 50 Cheetahs 32

The shame of the increasing divide between New Zealand teams and the others in this competition is that this Blues performance against the Cheetahs, while not perfect, will probably not get the respect it deserves.

This was good again from Tana Umaga's men at Eden Park tonight, their third win on the trot after back-to-back victories in Australia, and a bonus point victory to boot.

The key was the team's ruthlessness; unlike earlier in the season when they let teams escape, this time they refused to let the struggling South Africans off the hook. Umaga has spoken recently of a new resilience in this team and here was more proof.

The eight-try win keeps them in the play-offs hunt and they will leave for Cape Town and their match against the Stormers in good spirits, although without prop Pauliasi Manu, who damaged a calf after 18 minutes.

Midfielder Sonny Bill Williams, missing from this match with concussion, will fly with the squad, and the Stormers, after three hidings from New Zealand teams, should be wary of another big challenge.

Umaga hasn't got his side running as smoothly as he would probably like, but they can be devastating when they click.

A case in point was Melani Nanai's run from the back in the second half, the fullback refusing to concede in the tackle and offloading to Akira Ioane, who showed immense pace down the left wing before passing to brother Rieko for the almost inevitable result - another five-pointer.

Lock Patrick Tuipulotu, returning after five weeks out with a back injury, put in a decent shift - 80 minutes in fact - and loose forward Steven Luatua again showed the form which will almost certainly result in selection for the All Blacks squad to play the British and Irish Lions.

Halfback Augustine Pulu was as accurate and competitive as ever, and the reserves offered real impact; Manu's replacement Ofa Tu'ungafasi in everything until he himself was replaced in the second half and loose forward Kara Pryor offered energy off the bench.

There are improvements to make - the decision-making when under pressure and increasing the levels of concentration and awareness are on the lineout drive, but few teams will want to play them in this form and if they do continue on this ascent and make the play-offs, they will be a real threat.

The Cheetahs settled into the game quicker, the Blues looking a little flat by comparison in their first match back at home since their defeat by the Hurricanes in the middle of April.

But once Akira Ioane did his impersonation of a runaway locomotive to cross for a try and Tuipulotu did likewise - this time holding the ball rather than looking to offload - it looked like both teams re-discovered the natural order of things.

Rolling maul defence apart, the Blues made their tackles, missing only eight. A few of the collisions - notably from Tu'ungafasi in the first half - were devastating.

For the Cheetahs, who contrived to lose against the Highlanders in Bloemfontein last weekend, this was their eighth loss in a row.

They play the Hurricanes next and another thrashing is almost inevitable.

Blues 50 (Rieko Ioane 2, Scott Scrafton, Akira Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu, Steven Luatua, Augustine Pulu, Melani Nanai tries; Piers Francis 2 cons, Ihaia West 3 cons)
Cheetahs 32 (Francois Venter, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Elandre Huggett 2 tries; Fred Zeilinga 3 cons, 2 pens)
Halftime: 24-18


- NZ Herald

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