Sat 11 Jun 2022 | 11:14

Blues hang on to edge Brumbies in Eden Park thriller

Blues hang on to edge Brumbies in Eden Park thriller
Sat 11 Jun 2022 | 11:14
Blues hang on to edge Brumbies in Eden Park thriller
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MATCH REPORT: it is an all-New Zealand Super Rugby Pacific Final – the Blues hosting the Crusaders next week.

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The Blues hung on desperately in the second half, to claim a thrilling 20-19 win over a hard-charging Brumbies team at Eden Park, Auckland, on Saturday.

New Zealand’s stranglehold on the Super Rugby Pacific will continue for another year, after the Blues snuffed out the hopes of the remaining Australian side.

The Brumbies took a 7-0 lead after three minutes only to concede the next 20 points before staging a brave second-half fightback.

Two rolling-maul tries for Brumbies’ substitute hooker Lachie Lonergan created a grandstand finish, with flyhalf Noah Lolesio having a drop goal charged down in the game’s dying seconds.

It clears the path for the Blues to host the Crusaders in the final next weekend, while it was a 13th unsuccessful attempt by an Australian side to win a play-off game in New Zealand.

Flyhalf Beauden Barrett was in impeccable touch, constantly creating opportunities for the Blues while flawless in defence and running for 99 metres.

(Continue below …)

 


The Brumbies made a flying start with centre Irae Simone bursting through the Blues’ line off the back of a scrum and running 40 metres to score easily for 7-0 lead.

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The Blues found their feet with two penalties and dragged the score back to 7-6, their backs catching fire and combining brilliantly to find a try for Hoskins Sotutu on 24 minutes.

Barrett looked unstoppable and jinked his way around multiple Brumbies defenders before creating an opportunity for Mark Telea to score for 20-7, and only the crossbar denied the flyhalf a long-bomb drop goal on half-time.

Blues’ hooker Kurt Eklund was sin-binned for a spear tackle on Andy Muirhead and the Brumbies tried to make immediate use of the man advantage through Tom Banks, but Barrett was once again on hand to deliver a try-saving tackle in the corner.

The Brumbies’ patient, powerful rolling maul finally broke the line with Lachie Lonergan diving over on the hour, while only some elite desperation from Tom Wright denied Barrett a Blues’ try immediately after.

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Searching to reduce the deficit, Brumbies’ substitute Sosefo Kautai forced a penalty at the breakdown and they repeatedly threatened the line off the back of their maul, although staunch Blues’ defence somehow kept the margin at more than a converted try.

In a thrilling finish, Lonergan barged over for his second try on 77 minutes, with Noah Lolesio’s conversion cutting the Blues’ lead to a point.
But he couldn’t seal the deal with the subsequent drop goal attempt.

While the Blues were dominant in most areas, they were absolutely brutal at the scrum and their pack forced four penalties.

They struggled with discipline in the second half, conceding eight penalties to four and they were perhaps lucky not to receive a yellow card for the repeated fouling.

The scorers

For the Blues
Tries: Telea, Sotutu
Cons: Perofeta 2
Pens: Perofeta 2

For the Brumbies
Tries: Simone, Lonergan 2
Cons: Lolesio 2

Yellow cards: Kurt Eklund (Blues, 52 – foul play, spear tackle), Adrian Choat (Blues, 75 – foul play, high tackle)

Teams:

Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Beauden Barrett (captain), 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 Josh Goodhue, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 James Tucker, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tamati Tua, 23 Zarn Sullivan

Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Ollie Sapsfor, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valentini, 7 Pete Samu, 6 Tom Hooper, 5 Caderyn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Jahrome Brown, 22 Ryan Lonergan, 23 Hudson Creighton.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner & Stu Curran
TMO: Shane McDermott

PV: 18
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