The Blues made a winning return to Eden Park on Saturday, running five tries past the Brumbies to win 39-34 in a thrilling clash.
The Blues made a winning return to Eden Park on Saturday, running five tries past the Brumbies to win 39-34 in a thrilling Super 14 clash.
We expected them to run and they didn't disappoint. Two tries from Joe Rokocoko and a storming performance from Rene Ranger had the Auckland crowd in raptures as the Blues raced to victory at their first game at Eden Park this season.
The Brumbies led 16-10 at the break after a closely-fought first half, but the Blues turned on the gas early in the second period to charge ahead.
Not that it was a one-sided affair. Not by any means. The Brumbies thoroughly deserve their losing bonus point
For the second straight week it was the Brumbies pack that would get the scoreboard rolling. Off the base of a strong scrum the visitors drove at the Blues tryline with Salesi Maafu eventually crashing over after ten minutes.
Matt Giteau added the conversion before exchanging penalties with Stephen Brett, who made sure the Blues secured some points from their first visit to Brumbies territory.
The Blues closed the gap when Rokocoko scored a scintillating try. Ranger bust through the Brumbies line before popping up a brilliant offload to the flying Rocketman, who finished under the posts.
Giteau added two more penalties to give the Brumbies a 16-10 half-time lead.
The Blues started the second period with a bang, scoring two tries in the space of six minutes.
Ranger had the crowd on their feet again with a storming run, using his power and pace to touch down. The big centre was at the origin of the next try too, counter attacking from deep to put Blues on the front foot. Isaia Toeava found Benson Stanley out wide and the centre burnt up the touchline to finish.
Giteau replied with another penalty, but the Blues had their tails up and when Brett found Rokocoko out wide with a pin-point cross field kick-pass, the wing was all alone to score his second and the Blues' fourth.
Again Giteau replied with three points from the tee, only to see the Blues cross the whitewash again. After the Brumbies had fluffed the restart, Brett found Toeava on his inside, the full-back ran a great line and pinned his ears back to fly over.
Brett's conversion made the score 36-22 before the Brumbies struck back with replacement hooker Huia Edmonds bashing his way over from short range.
The Brumbies continued their fightback in the dying minutes as replacement scrum-half Patrick Phibbs sprinted 80m to score after Rocky Elsom broke clear. Giteau's conversion closed the gap to just two points and set up a grandstand finish.
The home side would have the last laugh however, the blue-clad pack bashed their way forward to set up Brett for the drop goal. The fly-half made no mistake, sending the ball between the sticks with just a minute left on the clock to secure victory.
Man of the match: A mention must go to Keven Mealamu, who lead his team by example as he won his 100th Super Rugby cap, but our gong goes to Rene Ranger. He scored a brilliant try, created another and set up a third – what a game!
For the Blues:
Tries: Rokocoko 2, Ranger, Stanley, Toeava
Cons: Brett 4
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Maafu, Edmonds, Phibbs
Pens: Giteau 5
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Paul Williams.
Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Salesi Maafu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Justin Harrison, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Matt Toomua, 22 Andrew Smith.
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Matthew Stanish (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)