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Blues rout Brumbies; Force blow Crusaders away

SATURDAY SUPER WRAP: The Western Force added another chapter to the peculiar Super Rugby Pacific season, which also saw the Blues make a statement of intent.

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The Force returned the Crusaders to the bottom of the table with a 37-15 win in Perth on Saturday.

In the early match on Saturday, the Blues routed the Brumbies 46-7 in Auckland.

(Continue below …)

The Western Force have heaped more pain on the Crusaders and dragged themselves off the bottom of the standings with the bonus-point victory over the fallen champions in Perth.

Wallaby star Kurtley Beale made a triumphant debut for the Western Australian franchise in his first Super Rugby outing since 2020 as the Force notched their first win over the Crusaders in more than a decade.

The momentous 37-15 victory in the bottom-of-the-table encounter reignited the Force’s finals hopes after a one-from-seven start to the season and left the Crusaders’ title defence in tatters.

The most prolific champions in Super history with a dozen titles since the competition’s inception in 1996, the Crusaders now face the ignominy of going from winners to wooden spooners after a disastrous start to their 2024 campaign.

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In what would have been unthinkable before the season kicked off, the Crusaders are now dead last after winning only one of their first eight games.

It’s an alarming scenario for embattled coach Rob Penney, who three years ago presided over the opening five games of the Waratahs’ historic first-ever winless season.

While Penney must be stressing, Force coach Simon Cron is plotting a path to the play-offs after his side moved to within a victory of the top eight with their first success over the Crusaders since 2013.

And they did it despite spending 10 minutes of the first half a man down following the first-half sin-binning of flank Carlo Tizzano.

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* Earlier Hoskins Sotutu crossed for two tries, as the Blues ran away to a resounding win over the Brumbies on Saturday.

A match between the teams ranked second and third in the standings turned into a rout as the home side scored seven tries to one in wet conditions at Eden Park.

It was a fifth straight win for the second-placed Blues, who climbed to five points behind the table-topping Hurricanes, the only team to beat them this season.

The result halted a five-match winning streak for the Brumbies, who are third after slumping to the third-biggest loss in their history and the biggest in 13 years.

With the powerful Blues forward pack in control, Sotutu was prominent with the ball in hand and scored at the start and finish of the first half to put his team 24-0 ahead at the interval.

It took the dynamic back row forward to a competition-leading eight tries for the season.

Sotutu, who failed to add to his 14 Test caps in 2023, is playing with form that could warrant a recall to the All Blacks this year.

“I’ve improved just everywhere I guess,” the 25-year-old said.

“I don’t want to take a backwards step – like I’ve been saying all season, every game I want to get better.”

Impressive wing Caleb Clarke scored the Blues’s other first-half try while forwards Dalton Papali’i, Ricky Riccitelli and Kurt Eklund crossed in the second spell, along with scrumhalf Taufa Funaki.

Reserve scrumhalf Luke Reimer scored a consolation try after the interval for the Brumbies, who host the Hurricanes next week.

All Saturday’s scorers and scorers follow below

Western Force 37-15 Crusaders

The scorers

For the Western Force
Tries: Tiatia, Horton, Carter, tizzano
Con: Donaldson
Pens: Donaldson 5

For the Crusaders
Tries: Aumua, Bell, Reece

Teams

Force: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Bayley Kuenzle, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Will Harris, 5 Thomas Franklin, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Ryan Coxon.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Marley Pearce, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 22 Max Burey, 23 Henry O’Donnell.

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Macca Springer, 10 Riley Hohepa, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Tom Christie (captain), 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Jamie Hannah, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 George Bell, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Dom Gardiner, 20 Cullen Grace, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Ryan Crotty.

Referee: Reuben Keane
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Jeremy Markey
TMO: Kyle Burnett

Blues 46-7 Brumbies

The scorers

For the Blues
Tries: Sotutu 2, Clarke, Papalii, Funaki, Riccitelli, Eklund
Cons: Plummer 4
Pen: Plummer

For the Brumbies
Try: Reimer
Con: Lolesio

Teams

Blues: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 Mark Tele’a, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Taufa Funaki, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Laghlan McWhannell, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Joshua Fusitu’a, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Darry, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Lucas Cashmore, 23 AJ Lam.

Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Ollie Sapsford, 13 Hudson Creighton, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan (captain), 8 Charlie Cale, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Sefo Kautai, 2 Billy Pollard, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Rhys Van Nek, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Tom Hooper, 21 Luke Reimer, 22 Harrison Goddard, 23 Jack Debreczeni.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw
TMO: Glenn Newman

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