Planet Rugby

Six-try Blues leave it late

22nd April 2011 08:09

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Blues brace: Rene Ranger

The Blues left it late to secure a 40-23 Super Rugby win over a determined Rebels side at North Harbour Stadium on Friday.

The hosts crossed the whitewash six times to bag the all-important bonus point, but two of them came in the final minutes of the game to stave off a Rebels comeback that at one stage had the visitors trailing by just five points with the clock winding down.

But centre Jared Payne and flank Luke Braid cancelled out any chance of a Rebels upset in the 75th and 79th minutes respectively to seal the win which takes the Blues top of the Super Rugby table - albeit only temporarily.

Had Blues fly-half Stephen Brett not made such a mess of things with the boot (he managed only three goals from eight attempts), the final scoreline could and should have been a lot higher than the 17-point deficit at the end.

The Rebels looked in for a hiding after Blues winger Rene Ranger sprinted down the touchline, shook off three would-be tacklers and scored in the corner two minutes into the match. Brett's nightmare with the kicking tee started here with his first miss at goal.

Ranger was celebrating his brace after picking up a neatly timed grubber kick ahead by Alby Mathewson to touch down in the same corner as his first. Brett was again off-target with the conversion.

At 10-0 down, Rebels pivot Danny Cipriani got his team on the scoreboard with a well-struck penalty in the 15th minute but the Blues responded with another try - this time to Joe Rokocoko, set up by Payne. Brett converted.

The Rebels needed to reply quickly and did just that through Cooper Vuna who caught the Blues' napping when changing his direction to run in before bouncing off an attempted Brett tackle to score a super solo try converted by Cipriani.

Brett was successful his first three-pointer of the match, but another Rebels try by winger Lachlan Mitchell - thanks to a brilliant Gareth Delve off-load as the number eight was tackled into touch - was once again converted by Cipriani (20-17).

However, Brett raised the flags with his second penalty to take the team's into the half-time sheds with the Blues leading 23-17.

A powerful run-in by centre Benson Stanley clinched the Blues' four-try bonus point after 48 minutes and, although Cipriani cut the margin with two penalties, the hosts were able to expand their lead with tries to Payne and Braid in the last five minutes.

Blues captain Keven Mealamu admitted after the game that his team's performance fell short of the standard they had hoped for.

"I just think the little errors cost us," Mealamu said.

"In games like this, you've got to build pressure and with those little errors we turned the ball over to them and that wasn't the way we wanted to play today."

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Ranger 2, Rokocoko, Stanley, Payne, Braid
Cons: Brett, McAlister
Pens: Brett 2

For Rebels:
Tries: Vuna, Mitchell
Cons: Cipriani 2
Pens: Cipriani 3

Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Chris Lowrey, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Lachie Munro.

Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Rodney Blake.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Hoani Macdonald, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Luke Rooney.

Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)

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