Blues bench edge plucky Force
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Blues' replacements made a massive second half impact to see off the Force 24-15 in an error-riddled, stop-start affair.
While Isi Naisarani was off the field, after receiving a yellow card, the Blues scored two tries and piled on 12 points with the Force ultimately losing by nine.
As the Blues banked their third win from six matches, it lifted them off the bottom of the New Zealand conference and extended New Zealand's dominance over Australian sides to 8-0 this season.
Force captain Matt Hodgson said the yellow card proved very costly.
"We lost a player to the bin and they scored two tries and they got some momentum there. There were some lapses in defence and they scored three long range tries," he said.
Blues captain James Parsons readily conceded it was not a great performance by his side.
"We didn't execute well out of our own half. We'll enjoy the win but we've got plenty to work on," Parsons said.
The Force, who yielded 45 points to the Crusaders last week and are battling to show they deserve to remain in a trimmed down competition, controlled the first 20 minutes.
They exploited holes around the Blues' ruck, and with a Jono Lance penalty and a Richie Arnold try, when the big lock drove over from close range, they were 8-0 ahead with the Blues struggling to get their game under way.
But the match turned when No.8 Naisarani was sent to the sin bin for not retreating when the Blues took a tap penalty in the shadow the posts.
While the Force were reduced to 14 men, the Blues scored a try to replacement loose forward Akira Ioane and one to wing Matt Duffie who finished off a 70-metre counter-attack sparked by George Moala.
With Piers Frances converting Ioane's try the Blues turned with a 12-8 lead.
In a ragged second half, the Force restored to their full complement of players, pressured the try-line only to lose the ball and see the Blues reply with long-range tries finished off by Rieko Ioane and Michael Collins.
With time almost up, the Force managed to score a Dane Haylett-Petty try to deny the Blues a bonus point.
Man of the match: Richie Arnold had a strong game for the Force while Billy Meakes showed his experience in running the backline. Marcel Brache had some strong carries and put in good work on defence. Dane Haylett-Petty had a steady game, despite not having plenty of chances. Piers Francis had a steady outing while Ihaia West brought something different when they switched places. George Moala was a threat with each carry while Matt Duffie put in another splendid performance. Our award goes to Akira Ioane, who made a massive impact off the bench to physically impose himself at the breakdowns and handing the Blues the edge in the second half.
For the Blues:
Tries: A Ioane, Duffie, R Ioane, Collins
Cons: Francis, West
For the Force:
Tries: Arnold, D Haylett-Petty
Yellow card: Isi Naisarani (Force, 29 - not retreating 10 metres)
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi or Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Chance Peni, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Richie Arnold, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Richard Hardwick, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Robbie Coleman.
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)