Blues flyhalf Ihaia West kicked an 84th-minute penalty to earn a 25-25 draw against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Three excellent tries saw the hosts leading 25-15 with six minutes to go and they looked set for a well deserved first win of the season. Their scrum had dominated and they had benefited from the visitors' indiscipline and high error count.
But the Blues fought back with a late converted try and while they were reduced to 14 men with two minutes to go, it didn't prevent them from taking the ball through 20 phases and earning a penalty. The call came from the coaches' box to kick for goal and not for the corner, and West made no mistake. Neither side, though, will be particularly happy with the result.
It was the Blues who opened the scoring in the 10th minute when a set move from a lineout saw West put Rieko Ioane into a gap. The teenage winger passed back inside to his flyhalf, who dotted down for a converted try.
The Reds hit back almost immediately when Chris Feauai-Sautia outjumped Tevita Li to collect Jake McIntyre's up and under. The winger ran round Steven Luatua and dotted down in the right-hand corner with McIntyre nailing the conversion.
West's penalty put the Blues back in front, and the visitors then scored their second try when they went wide to Lolagi Visinia, who threw a dummy and then passed back inside to Bryn Hall.
McIntyre missed his first penalty attempt but made no mistake with his next two to make it 15-13 at the break.
A scrum on halfway produced the Reds' second try early in the second half when an intricate set-piece move saw winger Eto Nabuli receive the ball in midfield and he broke through two tackles before sending Samu Kerevi away.
The Reds struck again at the end of the third quarter, when they attacked from deep. McIntyre passed inside to Nabuli, who found Frisby. The scrumhalf then drew two defenders and put McIntyre away in the left hand corner to make it 25-15. But the flyhalf missed the conversion and was then unsuccessful with a penalty.
The Blues set up an exciting finish when replacement Melani Nanai dotted down with seven minutes to go to reduce the gap to three.
Another scrum penalty for the Reds with two minutes remaining saw Blues replacement prop Sione Mafileo yellow-carded, but the visitors were still able to work their way back into opposition territory after Nabuli was penalised for a deliberate knockdown that should have resulted in a sin-binning.
From a lineout, they patiently worked their way towards the Reds' line, before earning a penalty that West slotted to salvage the draw.
Reds – Try: Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Jake McIntyre. Conversions: Jake McIntyre (2). Penalty: McIntyre (2).
Blues – Tries: Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Melani Nanai. Conversions: West (2). Penalties: West (2).
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Waita Setu, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Caderyn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase.
Subs: 16 Matt Mafi, 17 Pettowa Parka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru.
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Male Sa’u, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Akira Ioane, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Melani Nanai.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images