Classy Blues book home quarterfinal
MATCH REPORT: A second-half Blues’ blitz has consigned the Queensland Reds to a fourth straight Super Rugby Pacific loss.
Led by a star-studded and in-form backline, spearheaded by Beauden Barrett, the Blues extended their Super Rugby Pacific winning streak to 11 straight matches with a 53-26 win over Reds.
Their emphatic victory underlined the log leaders’ tag as title favourites, while the Reds run the risk of being overtaken by the Hurricanes and falling to seventh place after losing their third match on the bounce.
While the result also means the Blues are the first to book a home quarterfinal spot in the Super Rugby Pacific.
The Reds had dug in early and only trailed by eight points at halftime, but were blown away when the Blues hit top gear, conceding five tries in the second half.
It again highlighted the Reds’ struggles stepping up in class to face the competition’s New Zealand-based sides and they are now 0-4 in those fixtures.
The Blues, meanwhile, extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points.
The contest turned into a one-on-one battle between former NRL stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Suliasi Vunivalu, each making monumental contributions in their new code.
Former Dally M medallist Tuivasa-Sheck was the first to make an impact, with a slashing run driving his team forward allowing the powerful Blues unit to rumble over the line courtesy of Caleb Clarke for a 17-0 lead.
Bryce Heem had found the game’s first try on 14 minutes, carving through the Reds’ defence just three minutes after coming off the bench for the injured Rieko Ioane.
Heem crossed again, doubling up as Tuivasa-Sheck again weaved some magic with a precise pass to create a line break for Stephen Perofeta who in turn found the substitute.
But Vunivalu, a two-time NRL premiership player with Melbourne , powered over on 22 minutes and he helped the Reds cut the halftime deficit to eight points, with a brutal run trampling Blues opponents and allowing lock Ryan Smith to cross.
Clarke found his second try courtesy of a special one-handed pass from Beauden Barrett, and the Blues flyhalf had a try of his own just minutes later after getting on the end of a perfect Perofeta kick.
The tries kept coming for the Blues with substitute prop Soane Vikena finding a pair, although Reds fullback Jock Campbell notched a second-half double thanks to gorgeous passes from James O’Connor and Vunivalu.
Discipline was a problem for the Reds in the second half, conceding nine penalties to the Blues’ none.
It was the most points the Reds have let through in any match this season, exceeding the 32 points they copped against the Rebels in round nine.
Tries: Heem 2, Clarke 2, Barrett, Perofeta, Vikena 2
Cons: Perofeta 5
For Queensland Reds:
Tries: Vunivalu, Smith, Campbell 2
Cons: O’Connor 3
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 James Tucker, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryce Heem, 23 Zarn Sullivan.
Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott (captain), 8 Seru Uru, 7 Angus Scott-Young, 6 Connor Vest, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Feao Fotuaika, 2 Albert Anae, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Matt Faessler, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Tuaina Tualima, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Lawson Creighton.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey, Jono Bredin
TMO: Aaron Paterson