Planet Rugby

Blues lose disrupted match

25th April 2009 09:26

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Try time: James Horwill scores the Reds' second

The Blues have suffered a costly loss, going down 31-24 to the Reds in the Super 14 in Albany on Saturday.

It was one of the darker hours of Super Rugby. Literally. The weather did its best to wreck the game before the kick off, with howling wind and pelting rain hammering away at the stadium, but the hardy souls in the stands and the playing jerseys still did their stuff.

Four minutes in, the lights went out at one end. Referee Vinny Munro consulted with the captains and tried to carry on but after a serious knee injury to Chris Lowrey - not related to the gloom - the players changed their minds.

All sat for a good 50 minutes as the stadium organisers furiously tried to find a solution to the problem. When they did so, play resumed. All those staunch enough to have hung around had their patience further tested initially, but the game did eventually come to life.

The wet and the wind, which was directly behind the visitors in the first half, made coherent rugby difficult. Certainly the Reds were happy to use the boot to keep the Blues pegged in their own half and then run it from there. It worked, as the Blues set pieces were distinctly ordinary.

Berrick Barnes, a class apart from the other 29 players on show, landed a penalty before the power cut for a 3-0 lead and scored an excellent try on the half hour mark. His quick hands took the ball out to Mark McLinden who broke through, cut inside and found Barnes inside for a slide home on the greasy turf.

Barnes converted, and it was his play-breaking passing that nearly led to a second try, spoiled only by Quade Cooper's inability to imitate his centre's quick hands. Cooper looks thoroughly out of sorts at the moment.

Eventually the Reds did notch a second, when James Horwill crashed over from close range. Barnes converted again for a 17-0 lead, a big lead even with the wind.

But right on the stroke of half-time Isaia Toeava took the ball in the middle and powered through to make it 17-5, contriving to test his coaches' patience further with an appalling attempt at a conversion.

The Blues played copycat in the second half, kicking downfield as much as possible, but failing to chase with either the shape or the precision of their guests.

Cooper briefly found his mojo to spark a terrific counter attack which went through nine pairs of hands - Barnes once again the catalyst halfway through - for Digby Ioane to go in under the posts.

Two minutes later, Cooper and Anthony Faingaa combined through some pathetic Blues tackling to send the latter home and seal the contest, Barnes having converted both for an astonishing 31-5 scoreline.

The Blues stepped it up, and heavy pressure yielded a try for Peter Saili which Jimmy Gopperth converted. Five minutes later Kurtis Haiu made right one of several wrongs from earlier in the game by plunging over for a close-range try. 31-17, and still ten left to play.

Another nasty-looking knee injury, this one to Josh Blackie, saw the Blues' fightback rhythm disrupted, but there was still time for Jimmy Gopperth to grab one bonus point with the try and another with the conversion.

Man of the match: Berrick Barnes. On a different level to the others all game.

The scorers:

For the Blues:

Tries: Toeava, Saili, Haiu, Gopperth

Cons: Gopperth 2

For the Reds:

Tries: Barnes, Horwill, Ioane, Faingaa

Cons: Barnes 4

Pens: Barnes

Blues: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Isaia Toeava, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Josh Blackie, 6 Justin Collins (c), 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Grayson Hart, 21 Jimmy Gopperth, 22 Michael Hobbs.

Reds: 15 Mark McLinden, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Digby Ioane, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Brando Va'aulu, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ezra Taylor, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Van Humphries, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Greg Holmes.

Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Jack Kennedy, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Charlie Fetoai, 22 Anthony Faingaa.

Referee: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Jonathan White (New Zealand)

TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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