Rieko Ioane scored a brace as the Blues held on to claim a 40-33 win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
A Waratahs victory would have drawn them level with the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference, but it was the Blues who maintained New Zealand teams’ stranglehold over their trans-Tasmanian counterparts with a 17th consecutive win this season.
The Blues were clinical in their execution, and the Waratahs pedestrian in equal measure. There was a five-try riposte from the hosts in the second half, but all the damage had been done by an abysmal first-half performance that saw the visitors lead 26-0.
The Blues were given nine gifted points in the first quarter as the Waratahs conceded three soft penalties in front of goal, which flyhalf Piers Francis duly converted. The Waratahs couldn’t get their hands on the ball as the Blues controlled possession. When the hosts eventually did have possession, a loose pass and a slip by scrumhalf Jake Gordon saw Rieko Ioane show the quickest reaction time to score.
Francis continued to bang the kicks over as he added the conversion and a fourth penalty, before lock Scott Scrafton crashed over for a 26-point lead at the break.
It was an altogether different tale in the second half as the Waratahs outscored the Blues 33-14.
Israel Folau and Tolu Latu opened the scoring for the Waratahs after the restart, but back-to-back scores by the Ioane brothers in the space of five minutes gave the Blues a handy cushion.
The Waratahs launched a mini-comeback in the 70th minute. However, the late tries by Bernard Foley, Folau and replacement hooker Paddy Ryan were only enough to bag them a losing bonus point.
Waratahs – Tries: Israel Folau (2), Tolu Latu, Bernard Foley, Paddy Ryan. Conversions: Foley (4).
Blues – Tries: Rieko Ioane (2), Scott Scrafton, Akira Ioane. Conversions: Piers Francis (4). Penalties: Francis (4).
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 David McDuling, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Taavao, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Irae Simone.
Blues – 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Melani Nanai.
Photo: Matt King/Getty Images