Blues power past Cheetahs in try-fest
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Blues became the latest team to expose the Cheetahs weak defence when they secured a 50-32 win Auckland on Friday.
The Blues notched eight tries to four in the win, earning themselves a vital bonus point as they attempt to stay alive in the ultra-competitive New Zealand conference.
The Cheetahs were competitive early on and an effective driving maul earned them three tries, two of them to hooker Elandre Huggett, giving some respectability to the scoreboard.
But poor defence let the Bloemfontein-based team down as they slumped to their eighth straight loss.
Captain Francois Venter said the Cheetahs' Kiwi road trip would not get any easier when they face the in-form Hurricanes next week.
"We'll keep fighting and hopefully we can make a shock," he said.
It was the third win in a row for the Blues, who remain on the bottom of their conference one point behind the Highlanders, who have a game in hand on them.
With star centre Sonny Bill Williams out injured, Rieko Ioane stepped into the limelight, enhancing his chances of a call-up for the British and Irish Lions Test series.
Established All Blacks Steven Luatua and Patrick Tuipulotu, returning from a back injury, also scored tries and performed well to boost their case for an international recall.
The lead changed three times in the early stages as the sides traded blows in a free-flowing game, with Venter opening the scoring when he forced his way over the line. Rieko Ioane hit back immediately, bursting down the wing and finding himself with clear run after picking up Melani Nanai's pass.
Torsten van Jaarsveld regained the lead for the Cheetahs from a driving maul, but lock Scott Scrafton snatched it back when he barged past a flailing Raymond Rhule.
After a close 20 minutes, the Blues dominated the next 40, scoring six unanswered tries before Huggett clawed one back for the Cheetahs through another driving maul. The Blues punished the South African side as they pushed on attack, stealing the ball near their own line and running it the length of the field for Nanai to score.
Huggett's second try in the last few minutes was testament to the Cheetah's never-say-die attitude but the result was already beyond doubt.
Man of the match: Akira Ioane and Steven Luatua were both outstanding with ball in hand, while lock Patrick Tuipulotu was also powerful in the physical exchanges. However, the award goes to wing Rieko Ioane who scored two tries and created another for full back Melani Nanai
Tries: R Ioane 2, Scrafton, A Ioane, Tuipulotu, Luatua, Pulu, Nanai
Cons: Francis 2, West 3
Tries: F Venter, Van Jaarsveld, Huggett 2
Cons: Zeilinga 3
Pens: Zeilinga 2
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Declan O'Donnell, 13 George Moala, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Michael Collins.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Niell Jordaan, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Clinton Swart
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)