For all of the great things that Blues and All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane has achieved on a rugby field, he has never before experienced a victory over a New Zealand team in a competitive Super Rugby match.

So, while he described his leaping, chest-beating celebration after his incredible first try against the Highlanders during his side's 33-26 victory at Eden Park as "a bit over the top", it was perfectly understandable, and, most will probably agree, justified.

It was the releasing of the emotion of running in from nearly 50m, turning his opposite Waisake Naholo inside out, and scoring a try after nine minutes which set the tone for the evening. He scored another just over 20 minutes later. He now has six in two matches.

It was also an expression of release after a tough couple of weeks for the Blues and a statement of intent that last Friday was going to be different. Ioane, still only 22, made his debut at this level in 2016 but didn't play against the Highlanders in round one of that year – the last time the Blues had beaten a Kiwi team.


That the Blues brought to an end an horrific run of 20 games without a win over their conference rivals was largely down to a vastly improved collective effort along with touches of class from Ioane, fullback Melani Nanai, centre TJ Faiane and replacement lock Patrick Tuipulotu.

That they finally held their nerve when the game was in the balance in the final quarter owes much too to their new coaches Leon MacDonald and Tom Coventry. The belief and patience was there when for far too often over the past few years the chance would disappear via a foolish pass or kick.

"It's a new experience… this week is a bit different to how we would normally be feeling," Ioane said. "We've got our goals that we want to achieve and this is a huge step towards that."

One man who did play in that previous victory over the Highlanders three years ago is hooker James Parsons, a player who has seen plenty since but, as a previous skipper of the Blues, has reflected only on losing efforts against Kiwi sides. Tuipulotu and flanker Blake Gibson are now the co-captains.

"I have to give a lot of credit to our bench, we had a lot of experience coming on," Parsons said. "Patty came on early and then the two All Black props [Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi] and we got a couple of scrum penalties when it counted.

"We're not getting ahead of ourselves. We're rapt with the win and will be keeping our heads up, but it's a big week coming up against the Stormers."

A weekend which began with a rare Blues win continued with the Crusaders being soundly beaten and the previously winless Chiefs putting more than 50 points on what looks like the best South African team in the competition.

To say it was a little different would be a bit like saying Rieko Ioane isn't a bad finisher or the absent Richie Mo'unga is a reasonably important cog in a Crusaders machine which went haywire in Sydney.


If anything, it proved that there is little between teams even at this level and despite previous dominance or losing streaks. A glance at the Chiefs putting seven tries past a hapless Bulls in Pretoria two weeks after losing to the Sunwolves in Hamilton might suggest too that this year's competition might be closer than many expected.

And, despite what the form book told us after three losses in the first three rounds, the Blues, who finished second to last in 2018, might just play a part yet. They will play the Stormers at Eden Park on Saturday with a new sense of confidence.