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Blues blitz Force to stay in hunt

28th June 2014 14:06

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The Blues stayed in the race for a playoff after a first-half flurry of tries helped them to a 40-14 victory over the Force on Saturday.

A quartet of touchdowns in 18 breathless first-half minutes left the home side, renowned for their defence and hardiness in their Perth stronghold, in complete disarray.

Fly-half Ihaia West scored 16 points, and it was he who got the Blues off the mark with the first try, followed up in rapid fashion by scores from Charlie Faumuina, Lolagi Visinia and Ma'a Nonu.

The second-half was a little more even as the Force toiled manfully to find a way back into the game, bagging five-pointers of their own via Nathan Charles and Brynhard Stander, but these were cancelled out by tries from Blues captain Luke Braid and Pita Ahki as things grew decidedly ugly for Michael Foley.

The Blues flew out of the blocks, mixing up their attack well thanks to smart rugby from West and Nonu in midfield, and corresponding imprecision and naivety from their hosts.

The fly-half first gathered a long kick ahead from George Moala to sprint clear for the opening points, before hulking tighthead Faumuina barged his way over from close-range after Alby Mathewson was twice charged-down.

West converted both scores, and when the outstanding Steven Luatua plucked the ball from a ruck minutes later as Jayden Hayward put himself under pressure, the ball was spread wide, the defence all at sea, and Visinia powered home down the touchline.

The pivot failed to convert from out wide, but the Blues - outsiders with most bookies - held an astonishing 0-19 lead with less than a quarter of an hour gone.

It didn't end there. Four minutes later, with the Perth crowd still reeling, the visitors secured the bonus point. Nonu batted aside some awful attempted tackles to thunder his way over the line from midfield; West converted with ease.

The Force were shell-shocked, staring a 26-point deficit in the face; they had barely gotten their hands on the ball. With 25 minutes gone, the hosts finally managed to build some concerted pressure in the Blues 22, drawing infringements, but failing to match their opponents' ruthlessness.

Credit to the visitors' defence for keeping them out, but after spending almost ten minutes in the red zone, it was more than a little embarrassing that the Force could not breach the line.

And so it remained until the break, the Blues pilfering, disrupting and dominating around the tackle area while Foley's men laboured away with one-dimensional attacking rugby that proved impotent against the Blues line speed and aggression.

The second-half began in much the same way - Rohan Hoffman had displayed a measure of leniency towards the spree of away infringements before the break, and after warning Braid yet again on 45 minutes, a further transgression saw Tom Donnelly sin-binned.

Still, however, the Force could not capitalise.

By contrast, when the visitors were handed dangerous field position and an opportunity to score, they were clinical, as the skipper himself drove over under the posts aided by four team-mates. West added the straightforward extras.

The hosts finally got on the scoreboard with fifteen minutes to play, hooker Charles burrowing his way over after a quick tap-penalty as some small reward for his own industrious performance, and Jayden Hayward converting.

But the Blues, perhaps making their own luck, profited again from excellent field position as an attempted grubber-kick ricocheted into the arms of the onrushing Ahki who strolled home for his side's sixth try, converted again by West.

The Force did manage to finish on a high as substitute Stander powered his way to the line for a converted try, but it counted for little as the visitors ended a 13-game losing streak on the road in some considerable style.

A spirited finale from the hosts, perhaps, but ultimately it was telling that the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Nick "Honey Badger" Cummins' appearance on the nib big screen.

The scorers:

For Western Force:
Tries: Charles, Stander
Cons: Hayward 2

For Blues:
Tries: West, Faumuina, Visinia, Nonu, Braid, Ahki
Cons: West 6
Yellow card: Donnelly (persistent infringing)

The teams:

Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Solomoni Rasolea.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 George Moala, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Peter Saili, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Francis Saili, 23 Tevita Li.

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

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