The Blues claimed a 41-24 bonus-point victory over the Force in Auckland on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The victory was the Blues' second in 11 games this season, and came despite the home side losing All Blacks Jerome Kaino and Charles Piutau through injury in the first half. For the Force, it was a record straight 10th defeat, a result which keeps them rooted to the foot of the overall Vodacom Super Rugby log.
In an error-strewn first half, the Blues came out tops courtesy of two converted tries by Melani Nanai and Steven Luatua, and a penalty from Dan Bowden.They were also aided by the dismissal of Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, who was sin binned for taking a player out beyond the ball.
The Force had no shortage of opportunities either, but their disjointed attack, along with the Blues' supremacy at the breakdown and scrums, saw them trail 17-0 at the break.
The second half belonged to the visitors, who outscored the Blues four tries to three, to claim a bonus point.
With Haylett-Petty still having to serve another seven minutes in the bin, the hosts took full advantage, grabbing a double after the restart.
The game was in danger of turning into a blow-out, but the Force showed great fight to score tries through Pek Cowan, Matt Hodgson, Ryan Louwrens and Ben McCalman.
But it wouldn't be enough, as replacement flyhalf Ihaia West's 12-point haul in the final quarter secured the match for the Blues.
Blues – Tries: Melani Nanai (2), Steven Luatua, Akira Ioane, Ihaia West. Conversions: Dan Bowden (2), Lolagi Visinia, West (2). Penalties: Bowden, West.
Force – Tries: Pek Cowan, Matt Hodgson, Ryan Louwrens, Ben McCalman. Conversions: Luke Burton, Sias Ebersohn.
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau. 14 Lolagi Visinia, 13 Francis Saili, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Tevita Li.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Marcel Brache, 23 Junior Rasolea.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images