Blues demolish rabble Reds
Fri, 02 May 2014 09:47
Graham's cellar dwellers
The Blues raced back into the play-off zone with a 44-14 demolition of a very poor Reds team in Auckland on Friday.
While the Blues may not stay in the top six for the entire duration of Super Rugby's Round 12 weekend, the five-try rout put them right back into the hunt.
The Blues raced into a 34-0 lead, shortly after half-time, before a yellow card allowed the Reds to break their duck.
And even though the visitors scored a second try, they were not a match for the Blues.
Richard Graham's first season guiding the Queensland outfit has spiralled out of control.
Graham's side slumped to their fourth straight defeat as they were outskilled and outpaced in a continued transformation from Super Rugby contenders to cellar-dwellers.
On the basis of their first 52 minutes, the Reds have also gone from one of the smartest teams under Ewen McKenzie to one that is its own worst enemy - playing some dumb rugby.
The Blues, last in the New Zealand conference before the game, scored two first-half tries to lead 20-0 at the break - then extended that to 34-0 with two quick tries 10 minutes after the restart.
The Reds restored some respectability with two second-half tries, but had little chance of conjuring a win after conceding so many unanswered points, and crashed to their fourth defeat on end.
All Black centre Nonu was at his best, swinging the ball wide, attacking the line or nudging a kick ahead.
The first came as the half-hour mark ticked over, Nonu shifting the ball wide for wing Lolagi Visinia to burst clear down the touchline before flicking an inside pass for centre Jackson Willison to score.
Three minutes later, the Reds were down to 14 men after prop James Slipper was binned for a dangerous tackle on Peter Saili.
The Blues made the most of their advantage.
With his team hot on attack, Nonu slipped a grubber kick in behind the Reds' defensive line, Visinia ran onto it and the Blues went into the break with a 20-0 lead.
It took barely two minutes after the restart before they added a third, fullback Charlie Piutau making the initial break before a quick recycle and Nonu's speedy hands gave halfback Bryn Hall the time and space to touch down.
The bonus try came at 50 minutes, a superb team effort which ended with Visinia attacking the line before popping the ball for lock Tom Donnelly to barrel over.
Barely a minute later, the Blues were reduced to 14 men. Prop Tony Woodcock was binned for punching, and the Reds responded almost immediately.
Ben Daley powered across to score off the back of a rolling maul before the Blues regrouped to defend their line until hardworking Reds skipper James Horwill crashed across with 15 minutes to go.
But that was all the visitors could manage, young midfield back Ihaia West rounding off a comprehensive Blues win with a 50 metres dash to the line after a Piutau intercept.
Man of the match: You can probably nominate all 23 Blues players, some of them sat pretty efficient on the bench. Some stood out more than others. Ma'a Nonu had probably his best game of the season for the Blues, with a big hand in at least two of their tries. Young Simon Hickey showed maturity beyond his years and produced a masterclass in terms of goal-kicking. However, our award goes to openside flank Brendan O'Connor - who made 20-odd tackles, although his real value was in the crucial turnovers.
For the Blues:
Tries: Willison, Visinia, Hall, Donnelly, West
Cons: Hickey 4, West
For the Reds:
Tries: Holmes, Horwill
Cons: Cooper 2
Yellow cards: James Slipper (Reds, 34 - foul play, spear tackle), Tony Woodcock (Blues, 52 - foul play, punching)
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendan O'Connor, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Ihaia West, 23 George Moala.
Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
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