Rieko Ioane scored four tries as the Blues claimed a 28-20 win over the Sunwolves in Albany on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
For the Blues, this was an emotional victory following the recent passing of teammate Mike Tamoaieta, while it was their first win of the 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.
In that sense, the New Zealand outfit will be mightily pleased with the result, but they certainly had to dig deep against a gutsy Sunwolves side that simply refused to give up.
The Sunwolves came into this clash on the back of a famous win over the Chiefs, and picked up where they left off as they dominated territory and possession early on, while opening up a 6-0 lead.
Having been deprived of the ball in the first quarter, the Blues finally responded when they were able to string a few meaningful phases together, with Ioane eventually finishing off a well-worked try in the 21st minute.
Yet, the Sunwolves looked dangerous almost every time they had ball in hand, and again worked some magic for Rikiya Matsuda to go over unopposed under the posts and establish a five-point lead at the half-hour mark.
The Blues’ handling let them down, particularly in the opening stanza (nine errors), but they were enjoying some good gains at scrum time, and it was from this dominant set piece that Ioane was put away for his second try before the break.
#SuperRugby – HALFTIME:
Blues 15-13 Sunwolves
It’s been a close affair with between the Blues and the Sunwolves, with the home side clinching the lead in the last 6 minutes of the first-half.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) March 9, 2019
Ioane hadn’t scored prior to this clash in 2019, but soon after the restart, the speedster wrapped up his hat-trick as the Blues again sucked in defenders, before finding space out wide.
With scoreboard pressure slowly starting to build at 20-13, the Blues continued to go the direct route and reap rewards, while Sunwolves fullback Semisi Masirewa was sent to the sin bin for a cynical offence. Immediately after, the Blues copy-and-pasted what had worked before to set Ioane up for a fourth try.
The Sunwolves did well to remain in the fight when Uwe Helu scored in the 63rd minute, but the Blues eventually secured the result when Otere Black knocked over a penalty after Nathan Vella became the visitor’s second player to be yellow-carded.
Blues – Tries: Rieko Ioane (4). Conversions: Harry Plummer. Penalties: Plummer, Otere Black.
Sunwolves – Tries: Rikiya Matsuda, Uwe Helu. Conversions: Matsuda (2). Penalties: Matsuda (2).
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tanielu Tele’a, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams (c), 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Lua Li, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Otere Black, 23 Levi Aumua.
Sunwolves – 15 Semisi Masirewa, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Michael Little (c), 11 Jamie Henry, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 James Moore, 4 Tom Rowe, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Alex Woonton, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images