A hat-trick by Blues winger Mark Telea inspired the Auckland team to a 32-12 win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
Both teams started the Super Rugby clash searching for the first win of the season after the Waratahs went down to the Crusaders and the Blues were beaten at home by the Chiefs in week one.
The game was played at a very wet and rainy MacDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, making for some heavy and slow conditions under foot.
Waratahs coach Rob Penney recalled Wallabies forwards Jack Dempsey and Will Harrison to the young starting lineup in the hope of boosting his pack.
Early pressure by the Blues had flanker Blake Gibson dive over for the first points after ten minutes. Stephen Perofeta missed the conversion.
The Waratahs squandered their first attacking opportunity when flyhalf Will Harrison missed a penalty from out in front.
Further dominance by the visitors led to a penalty on the Waratahs’ goalline, which Perofeta converted to extend the Blues’ lead.
The 2014 Super Rugby champions, though, finally started to put some phases together, applying some pressure of their own which led to a try in the corner by Lalakai Foketi on the stroke of half time. He capatilised after some good work by the Waratahs forwards.
The slippery ball didn’t make for the greatest of spectacles with errors creeping into both sides’ games as the Blues took a narrow 8-7 lead into the break.
They made the best possible start to the second half, however, when England international Joe Marchant scored his first Super Rugby try after running on to a well-timed crash ball inside the Waratahs’ 22, before a clever grubber in behind by Hoskins Sotutu led to a simple gather and score by Mark Telea.
The Blues then took complete control of the match with their forwards, getting the better of the Waratahs pack.
The home side’s poor work at the set pieces didn’t help their chances of getting back into the contest, but they were presented with a man-over advantage when Sotutu was sin-binned for a high tackle as the rain continued to bucket down.
They managed to pull one back with a try by Mark Nawaqanitawase in the 62nd minute when he dived over in the corner after some good handling by the Waratahs. Unfortunately the wing injured himself in the process, while performing an acrobatic dive to reach over the line, after which he left the field in some discomfort.
Telea then clinched the Blues’ first win outside New Zealand in nearly two years when he ran in two untouched tries in the final three minutes of the match.
Waratahs – Tries: Lalakai Foketi, Mark Nawaqanitawase. Conversion: Will Harrison.
Blues – Tries: Blake Gibson, Joe Marchant, Mark Tela (3). Conversion: Stephen Perofeta (2). Penalty: Perofeta.
Waratahs – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachie Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Tepai Moeroa, 22 Mitch Short, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Blues – 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Emoni Narawa.
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Photo: Tony Feder/Getty Images