Super Rugby: Blues breeze past Melbourne Rebels as Kiwi teams go 4-0 over Aussies

Rieko Ioane on the charge for the Blues against the Rebels at AAMI Park on Saturday night. Picture: STUFF SPORTS.

New Zealand 4, Australia 0. The bristling Blues clearly used their week off wisely to brew together the intensity, game-plan and execution required to get their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign off to a rollicking start.

Leon MacDonald’s men flexed their muscles and thundered to an emphatic opening 50-3 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday night to make it four from four by the Kiwi teams over their Aussie rivals on opening weekend.

On the back of a magnificent scrum that was dominant all night at AAMI Park, and some scintillating skills unleashed over the last 50 minutes, the Blues provided the most impressive performance of the four Kiwi victories up to this point with six unanswered tries. The half-ton was excellent, but so too was the lone three points conceded.

On the back of a disappointing Aotearoa campaign that saw them miss a spot in the final, the Blues had been determined to come out in this short, six-week competition with the proverbial chip on their shoulder. Atonement is very much the name of their game in this flurry of games against the Aussies.

It was an impressive start too, even if it took them a good half-hour to break down the Rebels’ resistance. A late try to skipper Tom Robinson gave the Auks a 17-3 advantage at the break, and then the floodgates opened over the run home as the visitors added five second-half touchdowns to secure the maximum haul with ease.

The Blues’ scrum was very much the foundation of this performance, with Karl Tu’inukuafe outstanding from minute one. Robinson led superbly, as ever, with his energy and athleticism, Josh Goodhue was quality in the second row, Hoskins Sotutu continued his form resurgence and Akira Ioane brought plenty off the bench in the second spell. Sotutu and Ioane bagged a brace of tries apiece.

In the backs Fin Christie was sharp, Rieko Ioane a menace and the back three of Bryce Heem, AJ Lam and young Zarn Sullivan did the job splendidly. The bag of tricks were out all right over the second 40.

The Blues had to survive a few shaky moments, a disallowed try and a yellow card for flanker Adrian Choat to eventually ease out to a 17-3 halftime lead that was a shade fortuitous.

The key moments in a hard-fought first 40 minutes all came in the last 10 or so minutes, after Otere Black had slotted three penalties, and Sullivan a fourth from 49 metres to ease the visitors out to 12-3.

Blues wing Heem, who had an excellent half, had what looked a pretty decent try on the half-hour mark rubbed out when replays hinted at a potential knock-on from Rieko Ioane in a midfield tackle on Matt To’omua. That was enough for the TMO.

Then, three minutes from the break, the Rebels appeared to get the rough end of the pineapple when Choat was yellow-carded for coming in at the side to prevent a score from a driving maul. The home side probably should have had a penalty try to go with the sinbinning – but didn’t.

That decision gained further import when the Rebels went back to the lineout and Goodhue got up to snatch a steal, and relieve the pressure. It was a bitter blow for the Rebels who, frankly, never recovered.

Soon after the Blues conjured a magical score to close the half, featuring contributions from Rieko Ioane, Lam, Heem, Sotutu and Marcel Renata before skipper Robinson concluded a flowing attack wide on the left with a trademark power finish.

The visitors opened the second half well to notch the all-important try the other side of the break, with Sotutu able to power over in the 46th minute and just force the ball on the second attempt to extend the advantage to 24-3.

From there the floodgates opened and the tries flowed freely. Sotutu had his second in the 56th minute, via that dominant scrum, Akira Ioane dashed in soon after to make it 36-3 and then Lam and Akira Ioane, again, were over to round out a brilliant night’s work.

The Blues have now won seven of their last nine against Aussie opposition and will be eyeing up the hapless Waratahs on Saturday at Eden Park with some relish.

“The whole occasion was cool,” said a rapt Robinson afterwards. “It was nice to come across the ditch and have something different. It was good for us to have a fresh start and we were having fun out there.

“We worked hard over the last two weeks to connect off the field and drive those high standards on the field, and it showed I think.”

Blues 50 (Tom Robinson, Hoskins Sotutu 2, Akira Ioane 2, AJ Lam tries; Otere Black 3 pens, 2 cons; Zarn Sullivan pen; Harry Plummer 2 cons), Rebels 3 (Matt To’omua pen). Ht: 17-3.

 

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