Blues edge Reds in Apia
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Blues scored five tries on their way to a thrilling 34-29 win over the Reds in Apia, Samoa on Friday.
The Blues raced to an early 12-0 lead but had to battle hard in humid conditions as the lead changed four times in a rollercoaster second half.
The Blues, who are already out of finals contention, ended with five tries to four, ending the Reds' slim finals hopes.
They also stretched New Zealand's dominance to 21-0 over Australian opposition this season.
Wallabies coach Michael Chieka would also have been concerned to see centre Samu Kerevi and young lock Lukhan Tui both limp off injured.
But there was a positive in the two-try performance of young prop Taniela Tupou, who is knocking on the door of national selection.
For the Blues, Rieko Ioane scored a try and made several strong runs to push his case for All Blacks' selection in the upcoming Lions series.
The match was officially a Blues home fixture but was played in the Samoan capital of Apia to acknowledge the contribution that players from the Pacific island nation have made to Auckland rugby.
The Blues were up by two tries in the first seven minutes after applying relentless pressure from the kick-off.
Rene Ranger, returning from an ankle injury, sidestepped one defender and fended off another to score the first try, then floated an offload to Rieko Ioane for the second.
The Reds suffered a setback when Kerevi limped off with an injured ankle but rallied to score through Tupou after solid work from their forward pack.
Both sides scored tries through line-out drives then flyhalf Piers Francis potted a long-range penalty to extend the Blues' lead to 20-12 at the break.
Tui went off clutching his sternum shortly after the restart but the Reds again regrouped and scored through Adam Korczyk, with Quade Cooper's conversion giving them a 22-20 lead.
Gerard Cowley-Tuioti snatched it back for the Blues before Tupou powered over for his second try.
But Stephen Perofeta came off the bench to have the final say for the Blues, sealing the win with six minutes to go.
Man of the match: Rene Ranger had a good game out wide for the Blues and he scored a try as well, while Kara Pryor also did a lot of good work in open play. However, the award goes to Reds prop Taniela Tupou who scored two tries in a standout performance.
Tries: Ranger, R Ioane, Pryor, Cowley-Tuioti, Perofeta
Cons: Francis, Perofeta 2
Tries: Tupou 2, Ready, Korczyk
Cons: Cooper 3
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai,14 Declan O'Donnell, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Tinoai Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons (captain),
1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Jordan Trainor.
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi (captain), 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa'agase.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Kirwan Sanday, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Caleb Timu, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Jake McIntyre.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Will Houston (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)