The Blues’ revival continued with a 32-29 win against the Waratahs in Auckland on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Having lost their first three games of the season, the Blues have now won four in a row. It’s the first time they have achieved that in Vodacom Super Rugby since 2011.
For the Waratahs, it’s a third defeat from their last four fixtures, and that win against the Crusaders in Sydney now seems an anomaly.
The Blues made an outstanding start to this match, racing into a 17-0 lead after as many minutes.
Otere Black slotted an early penalty, before a patient buildup by the hosts, which saw good ball-carrying by the forwards, ended with a flat Ma’a Nonu pass putting Tom Robinson over in the left-hand corner.
After a similar attack in which their big men were prominent, Nonu again gave the try-scoring pass, this time to Caleb Clarke, who broke through the defence and dived over under the posts.
Then came the Waratahs’ fightback, with Foley’s cross-kick being collected by Israel Folau, who scored a record-breaking 60th career Super Rugby try, surpassing Doug Howlett’s tally.
The visitors dominated the rest of the half. Having been denied a try by staunch Blues defence on a couple of occasions, Will Miller finally went over from a driving maul. Foley nailed the conversion to make it 17-14.
The Blues needed to regroup at the break and they did, with a 14-phase attack finishing with a try to TJ Faiane, who took a good inside pass from Black. The conversion was missed, but the hosts had a handy eight-point cushion.
It didn’t last long, though, as Foley and Folau combined to put Alex Newsome away in the right-hand corner. But the visitors undid all that good work when they spilt the ball in midfield. Rieko Ioane picked it up and put Nonu away for a 40m try.
Foley and Black then exchanged penalties, either side of a disallowed try to Akira Ioane, with TV replays showing the No 8 had dropped the ball just short of the line.
With five minutes remaining, Jake Gordon broke away from a Waratahs scrum down the blindside and slid over in the right-hand corner.
But Foley’s conversion went wide and the Blues forwards then did brilliantly to run down the clock.
Blues – Tries: Tom Robinson, Caleb Clarke, TJ Faiane, Ma’a Nonu. Conversions: Otere Black (3). Penalties: Black (2).
Waratahs – Tries: Israel Folau, Will Miller, Alex Newsome, Jake Gordon. Conversions: Berard Foley (3). Penalty: Foley.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-c), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-c), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Michael Collins.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Will Miller, 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Subs: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Lachlan Swinton, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Lalakai Foketi.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images