Such a competitive first 40 from both teams in the Blues & Highlanders. Blues were very patient when it comes to the attack. A number of winning penalties provided those opportunities needed to get ahead. Before Mark Talea managed to touch down the big score first. Thanks to a fantastic cross kick from Otere Black.
Highlanders also doing well with plenty of involvement in the Blues zone at the start. The early three-point penalty goal reflected the build up base built defensively. But they need to sort out their lost penalties through the ill-discipline.
As the Highlanders were messy with the poor throw-ins & attacking chances. The yellow card of Ash Dixon gave the Blues some fightback. Although, the away team are not of the race just yet ahead of half-time. They just added another three-point penalty goal in the 35th minute. The score going into the 2nd half is 13-6 to Blues.
Blues may have not had the chance to extend their lead for a while. So nothing much changed when the Highlanders began to catch up at one point. Despite the fact they have scored a series of correct penalty goals against them.
But the home side did not waste any time catching up immediately. Especially when Harry Plummer’s kick from the difficult angle sinked in. Before Hoskins Sotutu found a way to turnover a scrambled Highlanders gate. That is how he got away where he assisted Blake Gibson with the finish. As Blues managed to shut them down after the full 80, 23-15 at Eden Park.
The 18 year drought is finally over for the Blues on home soil in Auckland. They deserve this moment after finishing 2nd in the 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa. It might not have been the same in the same NZ-only comp before the Trans-Tasman began. But The Blues came in clean with picking up as many victories + points possible. And they ended up as victors tonight thanks to their patient attacking shape. That is how The Blues took advantage of the Hurricanes errors.
Such as the ill-discipline and lack of executions despite the penalty goals. It puts so much pressure to their defensive end that was so hard to hold off. Thanks to Hoskins Sotutu who handed Blake Gibson the Blues winning moment. Now we are looking at the International Test season starting next month. It is a three-match tour between Australia v France.
Queensland Reds came in without their main man of James O’Connor. It was a late blow just hours before the game started in Brisbane. We do not know why for sure which delayed his 100th game.
But they had to move on without him via an early headstart. Courtesy of a quick inside ball from Hunter Paisami in the midfield. As Harry Wilson launched straight through for their first touch points.
The majority of the game however was controlled by The Blues. When they took advantage of the Reds ill-discipline & disjointed attack. Having scored two tries in the first 40 to go ahead by 10 points at half-time. Before they extend their lead further with two more touch tries accrued after HT.
Although the Reds began to chase down from behind in the last 20-25 minutes. Where they accrued a mix of touch scores & few penalty goals. But Queensland Reds unfortunately did not have much time to settle a draw in the end. When Dalton Papalii caught Harry Wilson alone with the turnover. Before Jonathan Ruru kicked into touch. As The Blues win by 7 points (24-31) at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
Pat Tuipulotu was one of the Blues big contributors last night. When he started on the second row at No.5. The impact was there straightaway both in attack & defense. In which helps his side reduce the workload and be more patient upfront.
It is something Patrick did exactly just like that with the assists/tries. He has a great read while the Reds defenders were under pressure. Before he unpacks the physicality to push themselves closer to the touch area. And it really set up a easy route in accruing maximum points possible. With credit to Pat who contributed both tries in the first 40.
The work is not over yet though after the half-time break. This time his backline put in the great work closer to the Reds danger zone. When Mark Talea ran really well but fell a tad short. Before Pat answered his help & extended The Blues lead with the try himself. This is really good communication in making up a well balanced attack. Like how Pat talked up well to have a decoy runner by his side. So the human shield is there for Mark to complete the execution. Then the same goes for Mark to reach out for help & Pat answers his cause. Well done to Pat who put out a great shift that helped get ahead early. And he also got an early mark too after 65 minutes. So he can recharge in the final round next week.
He was so electric last night on The Blues right wing position at No.14. Where he has to credit to the forwards contribution. That would be in a way to spot the Reds lack of executions. Before his side took advantage of it and cashed in patiently.
This is an effective strategy to bide some time going forward. Then let them find clues to break the Reds chain. Which made life for Talea so easy to make up two contributing tries in the first 40. The first one was a great offload from Pat Tuipulotu. Where Pat called out his second rower to add some backup. And that is how Mark was able to extend The Blues lead. Then he was given another chance to extend his 2nd & ran wide.
It may have fell short when he battled against a few defenders alone. But at least he reached out for support to avoid getting isolated. And Pat answered his call just after the break. This shows how his Blues side stayed patient when given the ball. Communication is one thing via the short passes. Before processing the physicality which Mark took great care in the end. He is really tall who can get behind his team. Then he can run that anyone else unable to catch him. He does reminds me of Bryan Habana for the Springboks. And Mark does have both Samoan and South African blood. But it will be interesting if he dons the All Blacks.
He did his best possible in a losing side last night at Number 8. Queensland Reds may be a tad behind during the start. But the defensive shape is always there as a positive. It tested his skills in a way that helped them win a couple of penalties.
Before Harry was able to get some support runners. Thanks to Hunter Paisami in the midfield via a short ball offload. And translated his attacking outlet both with the physicality/speed. In which saw him accrue the first of three touchdowns of the night. With Brandon Paenga-Amosa scoring the second after the break that also came from his forwards pack. That communication is there from Paisami who spotted a clear gap. So Harry pulled off past The Blues defenders.
But for the majority they were isolated unfortunately. Thanks to the Reds lack of conversions with their attacking shape going forward. It is something they are unable to bridge that weakness in order to catch up. As Harry needs plenty of help from the backline to sort out. Especially when they are going up against the top ranked Hurricanes. Three-point penalty goals are there late in the second 40. Due credit as said with the defensive application. Just not enough time to settle for a draw at least after the final siren.
The Blues gone ahead early with the three point penalty goal from Otere Black. As Melbourne Rebels struggled to find their way past the away side. Having cleared away with the kick a few times. But they did expose the opposition defensive test. That earned them a winning scrum before Matt Toomua levelled the score 3-3 after 10 mins. It did not detract the Rebels struggles to clear the Blues pack. When the scrum collapsed against their way through the second reset feed. And saw Black complete another three-pointer goal after 17 mins. The score is Melbourne Rebels 3-6 Blues.
Rebels defense may still be robust. While The Blues rushed through going forward on occasions that stopped them from scoring full points so far. But it is the home side who got hit with lost penalties along the way. Thanks to the Blues strong possession in the Rebels territory they extended their lead. Score is Rebels 3-9 Blues after 26 mins courtesy of a penalty goal from Black. Followed by another three points to the Blues with 8 to go towards half-time. When the Blues forward pack were so strong driving straight. That saw Melbourne struggle to clear the scrum feed with the referee giving that next penalty go the away side. Thanks to Karl Tu’inukuafe who plays at loosehead prop.
Going into half-time The Blues scored their first touchdown of the night. As Melbourne struggled to get their throw-in straight. Despite a few recent penalties won closer to the touch line. So does Adrian Choat who plays on the openside flanker for the Blues. He had to spend ten minutes in the naughty chair. Before the away side got away with the cross-kick towards the far right at the 50 meter mark. Seen Marika Koroibete struggle to mark the ball alone with no one to cover him. And that is how The Blues found a way through the opposite short side. With Tom Robertson scored the first full points recipient as skipper on the blindside back row. Half-Time is The Blues 3-17 Rebels.
Blues continued to extend their lead going into the 20 point mark. Having remained strong with the scrum feed. As well as plenty of flexibility via the counter attack. That saw the away side use the best of the wide areas to get around the Rebels half. Where Hoskins Sotutu make up the 2nd touchdown tonight at Number 8. Even though Michael Wells tried to prevent the ball being grounded on his opposite dial. Rebels 3-24 after 47 minutes. Followed by another touchdown with Sotutu via the patient scrum feed. Which demonstrated the away team so powerful in this area. Rebels 3-31 Blues.
On the other hand the home side were left with impatient conversions. Especially when they did not have much lost time through the ball on hand. That led to more leaked points where Blues got past the Rebels territory from Josh Goodhue. Before Akira Ioane made an immediate impact off the bench for Adrian Choat in the 52nd minute. And helped further extended the Blues lead for the five touch points at 3-36 with 15 minutes left. Then entered the 40 point mark through sensational passage of play. Before Harry Plummer made a cross kick towards the far left for AJ Lam that touched down too easily. It is a 40 point gap going to The Blues at 3-43. With less than 10 to go and Akira once again scored another touchdown. As seen though the patience shown via the winning penalties & attacking setup. The away side reached half-century for the win in Melbourne at 3-50.
We will start with Karl Tu’inukuafe at loosehead prop for The Blues. Where he made a big contribution last night. Both to look after the defense. Alongside his attacking offerings that hurt Melbourne.
He possesses a great read which is important to protect his zone. Especially when the Rebels were struggling for some support up front. And not only he helped mark one or two players. Karl also had a look at their scrum feed. Even when Joe Powell has the first feed in against his side. That is how he used his packed muscle to lock them out with the collapse.
It convinced the referee to give the ball to The Blues. Where they made up a couple of successful three pointers. Followed by a couple of touch scores. Karl did not even have to complete the whole game. When his side were good to go towards an easy win. After he came off for Ofa Tuungafasi in the 52nd minute. At 135kg it is hard to get past this sort of stature like Karl. If any one cannot get back up. Whether when they tried to clear out or score tries. Then he will hold them back. And let his Blues side execute with the hard work he put in.
There are so many Blues players who made such an impact. But I will have to go to Akira Ioane off the bench. This side were a bit of trouble. When Adrian Choat was punished in the naughty chair. It was exactly in the same role he played on the openside back row. And since Akira came on Blues seemed to be settled with him.
He was so involved going forward in all areas. Especially when his side were able to get around the Rebels half. Got himself ready towards the execution. Based on a wonderful read to keep that passage of play. Before Akira unpacked it with so much physicality & pace. And that is how he touched down both scores to make it half-century. Even in the 2nd 40 alone.
I may not have followed Super Rugby Aotearoa for much this year. But Akira did his fair share to put himself back at No.7 next Saturday. He is such an impact player who changes the game. The defensive test is demonstrated. When he gets to read the opposition bring isolated without numbers. Before he was blessed through the patient attacking setup. And that helped him execute into an even all-round star. It is something any opposing team would be punished by his attributes.
It is so hard to get through such a big loss against them. Even on their home crowd at AAMI Park in Melbourne. But only one player who did his best last night. And that is Rob Leota who plays at lock. So on the left hand side (No.4) at second rower.
The defensive setup was there at the beginning. Where the Rebels kept it simple along the way. He read well with The Blues earlier handling errors. As well as the improper communication going forward. It gave them a few resets for his side to try and get themselves ahead. As well as a few winning penalties. Where the Rebels only kicked one three point goal.
But unfortunately his side were unable to make up the attack. Especially when they struggled for support numbers. So does the poor line-out. It sums up the miscommunication which forced The Blues hand. Not only it limits their chances with the ball. It ultimately gave their forwards a hard time to defend. That is how Rob expressed his frustration post-game last night. He may be happy to play against five New Zealand teams. Which is going to be a long-term benefit. But needs help to unpack the best of the attack next time. If they are to stay in contention for the full 80. Especially with a change of head coach recently in Kevin Foote.