Blues rout rabble Rebels
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Blues started the 2017 season with a try-scoring (56-18) win over an error-prone Rebels in Melbourne in the competition's first Thursday mach.
Outscoring the Rebels by seven tries to two - which included a sublime Rieko Ioane hat-trick - the Blues did so with a number of their best players yet to join the fray.
Blues flyhalf Ihaia West kicked six conversions and two penalties to pass 300 career points for the Aucklanders.
It was an impressive performance that sounded a loud warning to other teams.
The game marked the Blues' first victory in three trips to Melbourne and it was their biggest winning score in Australia.
It was an eye-catching performance from 19-year-old Ioane, who made his Test debut for the All Blacks against Italy in Rome last November and heralded the arrival of a new promising star in Super Rugby this season.
Ioane, who graduated to Super Rugby from New Zealand's Sevens team, scored an intercept try, another beating three tackles and a third backing up his brother Akira to take the final pass.
The Blues have often been their own worst enemy in the past with their inconsistency, but under the coaching of All Black great Tana Umaga, they were more clinical in their execution, outscoring the Rebels 31-3 in the second half.
"It's something we've been working very hard on during the pre-season to get those consistent performances and I thought we got that tonight," skipper Jimmy Tupou said.
The Blues, who led 25-15 at half-time, were helped along in the second half by the disjointed Rebels, who missed 20 tackles.
Nothing went right for the Rebels in their first home match of the new season before a sparse crowd on a Thursday night scheduling experiment in Melbourne.
They started brightly but lost skipper Nic Stirzaker after he failed a concussion test from a head knock, not long after scoring the Rebels' first try in the seventh minute.
Stirzaker joined a growing list of sidelined stars including National Rugby League recruit, wig Marika Koroibete, and Wallabies Sean McMahon, Sefa Naivalu, James Hanson and Toby Smith.
The Rebels also lost experienced centre Mitch Inman, forcing a late backline reshuffle.
The Blues will test their early season promise against the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton next week, while the Rebels are away to the defending champion Hurricanes in Wellington.
Man of the match: You can take your pick from a very impressive Blues team, but our award is for Blues centre Rieko Ioane was a one-man wrecking ball on defence and the creative force on attack - which earned him a hat-trick of tries.
For the Rebels:
Tries: Stirzaker, Garden-Bachop
Pens: Hodge 2
For the Blues:
Tries: Manu, Duffie, R Ioane 3, Pulu, Nanai
Cons: West 6
Pens: West 2, Francis
Yellow card: Rene Ranger (Blues, 72 - repeat offences at the breakdown, in from the side)
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Jonah Placid, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 .
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Jimmy Tupou, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 George Moala, 23 Rene Ranger
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Will Houston (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
AFP & @rugby365com