Blues’ All Blacks contingent shine as they put Western Force to the sword

David Skippers
Blues v Western Force try image 5 April 2024.jpg

A superb line break from Caleb Clarke set Taufa Funaki up for a superb try in the Blues' win over the Western Force.

The Blues continued with their fine form in Super Rugby Pacific as they cruised to an emphatic 50-3 victory over the Western Force at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

Leading the way for the Blues was their contingent of All Blacks players, with the likes of captain Dalton Papali’i, Akira Ioane, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Akira Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu, Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane all impressing in their respective positions.

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Tu’ungafasi and Sotutu were amongst the Blues‘ eight try-scorers with Taufa Funaki (2), Ricky Riccitelli, Laghlan McWhannell, Corey Evans and AJ Lam also crossing the whitewash while Harry Plummer added five conversions.

The Force‘s only points came via the boot of Ben Donaldson, who slotted a penalty.

Although this encounter produced several highlights for the home side, Funaki’s second try deserves special praise as it was a thing of beauty set up by Clarke.

The All Blacks wing showed his class as he gathered a kick midway between his 22-metre line and the halfway mark before setting off on a barnstorming run. The 25-year-old beat several defenders before his progress was halted inside the Force’s 22 but he managed to throw an inside pass to the on-rushing Funaki, who showed a superb turn of speed before crashing over for a well-taken try.

That was in the 51st minute and gave the Blues a dominant 38-3 cushion. Prior to that, they raced into a 28-3 lead at half-time after Tu’ungafasi, Riccitelli, McWhannell and Funaki had crossed for converted tries, with Donaldson’s penalty on the half hour-mark the Force’s only points in the game.

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Early in the second half, Sotutu got his name onto the scoreboard as the hosts continued where they left of prior to half-time and when Clarke and Funaki combined for the scrum-half’s second try the writing was on the wall for the Force.

Despite that score, the Blues did not take their foot off the pedal and continued to dominate all facets of play during the rest of the match. Apart from the brilliant attacking skills of players like Clarke, Sotutu and the Ioane brothers, Papali’i led his troops well and also impressed with outstanding work at the breakdowns.

The Blues were rewarded with further tries from Evans and Lam and their triumph moves them into joint first position on the Super Rugby Pacific table, alongside the Hurricanes, although they have played one more match than the men from Wellington.

The teams

Blues: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Corey Evans, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Taufa Funaki, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i (c), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Laghlan McWhannell, 4 Josh Beehre, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Joshua Fusitu’a, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Anton Segner, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Lucas Cashmore, 23 Caleb Tangitau

Force: 15 Max Burey, 14 Bayley Kuenzle, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Nic White (c), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Tim Anstee, 5 Thomas Franklin, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Ryan Coxon
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Marley Pearce, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Lopeti Faifua, 20 Will Harris, 21 Ollie Callan, 22 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 23 Henry O’Donnell

Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Marcus Playle (New Zealand), Mike Winter (New Zealand)

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