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Blues see off Brumbies after fast start in Super Rugby semifinal

MATCH REPORT: The Brumbies have been unable to end Australia’s 10-year Super Rugby Pacific title drought as they suffered a 20-34 defeat to the Blues in their Auckland semifinal.

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After losing veteran Test prop James Slipper in the warm-up when his calf injury flared, the Brumbies’ outing went from bad to worse at Australia’s hoodoo ground Eden Park.

As well as Slipper’s omission, the Canberra team were forced into another late change for the Fridayclash with flank Tom Hooper ruled out through illness.

In the Grand Final, the Blues will take on the winner of the other semifinal, with the table-topping Hurricanes hosting the Chiefs on Saturday in Wellington.

The Brumbies, who have now failed to go beyond the final four for a third straight year, were targeting a fast start as they looked to become the first Australian team to win a play-off in New Zealand soil since the competition started in 1996.

But the Blues drew first blood with centre AJ Lam scoring in the second minute after they sent the ball wide to cross after a 14-phase build-up.

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After a Brumbies penalty strike that lead was extended to 12-3 after eight minutes, with Blues hooker Ricky Riccitelli bagging a try off the back of a rolling maul.

Another Noah Lolesio penalty kept the Brumbies in the hunt but on the back of costly errors, the home side pushed the lead out to a commanding 24-6 after 20 minutes, with lock Sam Darry and wing Caleb Clarke crossing with ease.

To the Brumbies’ credit they regrouped, and after wing Corey Toole came within centimetres of scoring, flank Rob Valetini burrowed over with the teams going to half-time 27-13.

In greasy conditions, the Brumbies continued to make uncharacteristic mistakes, with the Blues’ stiff defence and dominant set piece keeping the pressure on.

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Blues No.8 Hoskins Sotutu landed a hammer blow in the 59th minute, although flank Luke Reimer replied to cut the margin to 14 points with 10 minutes to play.

But the final nail in the coffin came when the visitors lost lock Nick Frost to a yellow card for tackling a rival in the air, leaving the visitors to play out the match a man down.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Lam, Riccitelli, Darry, Clarke, Sotutu
Cons: Plummer 3
Pen: Plummer

For Brumbies:
Tries: Valetini, Reimer
Con: Lolesio 2
Pens: Lolesio

Teams:

Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Tele’a, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 AJ Lam, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Beehre, 4 Sam Darry, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Joshua Fusitu’a, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 James Thompson, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Taufa Funaki, 22 Corey Evans, 23 Cole Forbes.

Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Charlie Cale, 7 Rory Scott, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Billy Pollard, 1 Rhys van Nek.
Replacements: 16 Liam Bowron, 17 Harry Vella, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Jahrome Brown, 21 Luke Reimer, 22 Harrison Goddard, 23 Ollie Sapsford.

Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin and Fraser Hannon
TMO: Chris Hart

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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