The Blues got their Super Rugby preparations off to a good start with a 59-7 thumping of the Rebels in Pakuranga on Thursday.
Although the Rebels' reserves consisted largely of makeshift club rugby and U20 players, coach Michael Foley will be disappointed by the large margin of defeat after fielding a full-strength starting XV boasting 603 Super Rugby caps between them.
Blues coach Tana Umaga utilised his entire squad, giving all his charges game time. It showed as they ran the Rebels ragged, while also putting in a strong defensive performance.
Flank Jack Ram opened the scoring when he broke away from a rolling maul for a converted try before prop Nic Mayhew barged over from close range to double the lead. The Rebels pulled seven points back on the stroke of half-time via a converted effort by centre Mitch Inman, but that proved to be their only points of the encounter.
The second stanza was even more one-sided as the hosts ran in seven more tries, including one from the returning Rene Ranger, to finish off a convincing performance.
What will be especially pleasing for Umaga is the ease with which Ranger slotted back into the fold after being sidelined since April 2015, when he suffered a shoulder injury in France, as well as the goal-kicking of Matt McGahan and Ihaia West.
The Blues will play their opening Super Rugby match against the Highlanders on 26 February, while the Rebels will travel to Perth to face the Force on the 27th.
Blues – Tries: Jack Ram, Nic Mayhew, Patrick Tuipolotu, Melani Nanai, Rene Ranger, George Moala, Steven Luatua, Matt Vaega, Namatahi Waa. Conversions: Matt McGahan (4), Ihaia West (3).
Rebels – Try: Mitch Inman. Conversion: Mike Harris.
Blues – Forwards: Sione Mafileo, Nic Mayhew, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Namatahi Waa, Quentin MacDonald, Matt Moulds, James Parsons, Josh Bekhuis, Patrick Tuipulotu, Hoani Matenga, Scott Scrafton, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Steven Luatua, Jerome Kaino, Joe Edwards, Jack Ram. Backs: Billy Guyton, Bryn Hall, Sam Nock, Ihaia West, Piers Francis, Matt McGahan, Michael Little, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Rene Ranger, Jordan Trainor, Lolagi Visinia, Matt Vaega, Tevita Li, Matt Duffie.
Rebels – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Ta Hosea, 7 Sione Taufa, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Jordon Uelese, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Ryan Cocker, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Pom Simona, 21 Angus Fowler, 22 Dan Hawkins, 23 Paul Asquith, 24 Tom Moloney.
Photo: Blues Rugby/Twitter