This article originally appeared stuff.co.nz And reproduced with permission
Winning this Super Rugby Pacific season has suddenly become not just a habit but a celebration for the indomitable blues.
Leon MacDonald’s men lost All Black star Raiko Ion to a hamstring injury, but nothing in terms of form, speed and confidence as they comfortably sent Brad Thorne to the Queensland Reds for another bonus-point win.
Watch every game of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, ad-free, live and on-demand streaming only on Stan Sport. Sign up for your free seven day trial!
The eight four-win attempts were the Blues’ 11th (a shame to equal the franchise record) in bounce this season, improving them to a competition best 11-1, and 50 competition points. Unfortunately, they now have a seven-point buffer over their closest followers (Brumbis and Crusaders), all except the minor premieres, with one fortnight left in the regular season.
Read more: Violent fans boot from Suncorp Stadium
Read more: Norman’s rebel league still claims the biggest victim
Read more: The reason for the AFL’s ‘ridiculous’ crackdown
If you don’t count, after eliminating the Rebels 71-28 in the last two matches against the Australian opponent, it also has 19 attempts and 124 points. These guys are somehow in an aggressive form – even if they may need a little attention to their defenses.
It was another outstanding offensive display by the Blues, where the pack laid a nice foundation again and the backs had a field day with their speed and performance. Lock continued his standout form with another big night for James Tucker (43m in the playoffs), Hoskins Sotutu showed off his skills by beating four defenders and substitute hooker Sweeney Vicena enjoyed two late attempts on the lineout drive route.
Bowden Barrett was great at the pivot and was one of three Blues backs to beat five defenders at night. Roger Twivasa-Shake continued his positive form with a team-high 72 meters (including 5 defenders defeated, and a delightful clean break) and two attempts by Bryce Him off the bench were notable. Caleb Clark also continued his growing form with effort and several blockbusting runs.
The Reds worked hard and showed some nice touches to net in four attempts. Wing Suliasi Vunivalu, halfback Tate McDermott and Lock Ryan Smith were their standouts. But they missed 32 tackles, and that’s too many numbers that no chance.
Him finds a hole
The Blues opened at one point in the first 17 minutes. Substitute midfielder Hime completed a beautiful run on the cutback line and an 82-meter counter-attack from Clarke’s rock to give the home side a 17-0 lead before a huge crowd of 19,690 people could fully settle in their seats.
But the Reds – some key troops down, but not the spirits – weren’t going to play rollover and roadkill because their comrades were eight days ahead of the rebels, and they scored two of the remaining three attempts in the half to return to the break at eight (22-14).
Big Wing Vunivalu, a one-time Auckland schoolboy star in St. Kent, was a huge figure in the Reds’ response to the second quarter, made a great effort on the inside line of his halfback and then set the score for Smith with a halftime stroke when he skinned Clarke in charge.
The seven-pointer hem of these two reds, who came to Ion just 10 minutes later, completed a great time in his second attempt when some great handling from the back of the blues punished the spectators for an error in their half carry. .
The Blues made two quick attempts early in the second spell (near Clarke and Barrett) to drop the match on the ice and then the bonus points were confirmed as the try kept coming. Replacement hookers Sweeney Weikner’s late brace and Stephen Perofeta’s great finish confirmed it.
To get a daily dose of the best breaking news and exclusive content from the Wide World of Sports, click here to subscribe to our newsletter!