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Blues leap to the top of the ladder

Blues leap to the top of the ladder

All BlacksApril 8, 2024

Three teams, the Blues, Hurricanes and Brumbies, share the lead in the DHL Super Rugby Pacific competition after seven rounds, with the Hurricanes having a game in hand.

The weekend was the first involving the bye, and the Hurricanes will have a chance to reclaim the lead on Saturday when they host the fourth-placed Chiefs in Wellington.

The Blues and Brumbies face each other in Auckland when coming off their bye weekend the following weekend.

The Rebels bounced the Fijian Drua to move into fifth place, three points clear of the Reds, who also had the bye this weekend. The Drua hold seventh played with the Highlanders eighth.

Stats watch:

Most tries: Corey Toole (Brumbies) 7, Hoskins Sotutu (Blues), Cortez Ratima (Chiefs), Matt Faessler (Reds), Iosefo Masi (Drua) 6.

Most points: Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) 82, Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) 72, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula (Drua) 65.

Most carries: Mark Tele'a (Blues) 80, Seru Uru (Reds) 78, Peter Lakai (Hurricanes), Harry Wilson (Reds) 70.

Clean breaks: Toole 12, Chase Tiatia (Force) 11, Josh Moorby (Hurricanes) 10.

Most defenders beaten: Iosefo Masi (Drua) 34, Selestino Ravutaumada (Drua) 30, Tele'a 29.

Most lineouts won: Josh Canham (Rebels), Nick Frost (Brumbies) 32, Liam Wright (Reds) 28.

Most metres gained: Caleb Clarke (Blues) 558, Tom Wright (Brumbies), Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs) 522.

Most offloads: Tele'a, Wright, Billy Proctor (Hurricanes) 10.

Most tackles won: Tom Christie (Crusaders) 127, Carlo Tizzano (Force) 109, George Bell (Crusaders) 101.

Blues 50 Force 3

Refusing to be tempted by the Force's kicking game, ill-directed as it was, the Blues showed far more attacking intent and execution in running in eight unanswered tries at Eden Park to momentarily enjoy a share of the fresh air at the top of the points table. Down on resources due to injuries to key personnel, the Blues demonstrated depth in their side as players like two-try halfback Taufa Funaki, locks Josh Beehre and Laghlan McWhannell, five-eighths Harry Plummer and Corey Evans, and fullback Cole Forbes took full advantage to clock some good minutes in a display that flowed freely. The Force had their chances, but passing errors several times denied them, possibly due to the pressure of the impenetrable Blues' defence. The Blues scrum further pressured the visitors to provide a foundation for the side's attacking initiatives.

The Blues beat 29 Force defenders to six, and when the Blues' tackle count was 111 to 136, that accuracy accounted for the Force's inability to penetrate the home defence despite enjoying a 50 per cent share of possession. The superior Blues' cutting edge saw them make eight clean breaks to two.

Blues 50 (Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Taufa Funaki 2, Laghlan McWhannell, Hoskins Sotutu, Corey Evans, AJ Lam tries; Harry Plummer 5 con) Force 3 (Ben Donaldson pen). HT: 28-3


Rebels 41 Fijian Drua 20

Three tries on either side of halftime undid the Drua, who had used the power of their forward pack to put early pressure on the home side in Melbourne. The Drua were up 20-8 seconds before the break, through tries to halfback Frank Lomani, second five-eighths Apisolame Rota and lock Ratu Leone Rotuisolia but let Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese go over from a ruck five metres from the goal line. Then, within two minutes of the restart, wing Glen Vaihu took a long pass from first five-eighths Carter Gordon to score and, with the conversion, claim a two-point lead. Flanker Maciu Nabolakasi added another try via a rolling maul two minutes later, and after a storming run by replacement prop Taniela Tupou, Gordon tapped on a pass from the ruck to put Vaihu in for his second try. Centre Filipo Daugunu provided an interesting evasive action by slipping, causing his marker to slip, and then got up to run in at the corner to complete the scoring. It didn't help hopes of a recovery that Lomani (59th minute) and replacement forward Jone Koroiduadua (75th) received red cards

The Drua, who failed to add to their halftime score, will reflect on lost opportunities, especially in the second half. Their lineout accuracy was only 77.8 per cent compared to the Rebels' 93.8, and they won only one maul compared to 10 for the home team. They were required to make fewer tackles 101-131, but the Rebels won seven turnovers to three and made nine cleans breaks to three.

Rebels 41 (Angelo Smith, Jordan Uelese, Glen Vaihu 2, Maciu Nabolakasi, Filipo Daugunu tries; Carter Gordon 4 con, pen) Drua 20 (Frank Lomani, Apisalome Vota, Leone Rotuisolia tries; Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula con, pen. HT: 15-20


Chiefs 68 Moana Pasifika 12

Chiefs flanker Simon Parker scored from a ruck close to the Moana Pasifika line 10 minutes after the start in Hamilton, and wing Emoni Narawa made the most of a botched Moana Pasifika backline movement by securing the ball, kicking ahead, and twice toeing the ball into space before winning the chase to pick up and score after 22 minutes. It was the first of three tries on the night for him, but he also contributed to several others. But as they found gaps in the visitors' defence, the Chiefs unleashed continuity play as fullback Etene Nanai-Seturo and second five-eighths Daniel Rona took them to a 28-0 lead at halftime. Debut prop Sione Ahio will never forget his first touch of the ball in Super Rugby when taking an in-pass from Narawa to run in under the posts. Both halfbacks, starter Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and replacement Cortez Ratima, were rewarded for their support in running with tries.

It was also a field day for the Chiefs in the match statistics. They gained 775 metres to 302, beat 38 defenders to 21, made 13 clean breaks to two, won 11 scrums to three, and made 126 carries to 91, while Moana Pasifika conceded 22 turnovers to 13 and lost six lineouts to one.

Chiefs 68 (Emoni Narawa 3, Simon Parker, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Daniel Rona, Sione Ahio, Peniasi Malimali, Cortez Ratima tries; Damian McKenzie 9 con) Moana Pasifika 12 (Melani Matavao, Miracle Fai'ilagi tries; Otumaka Mausia con). HT: 28-0


Brumbies 40 Waratahs 16

It took the Brumbies 39 minutes, but on the back of a linebreak by second five-eighths Tamati Tua, halfback Harrison Goddard was able to snipe around a goal-line ruck and score, giving the home team a 16-9 lead at the break, all the other points have come from penalty goals. The Brumbies didn't have to wait too long in the second half, with blindside flanker Rob Valetini bumping his way over for the try after 48 minutes. Into the 65th minute, the Waratahs got within touching distance when flanker Charlie Gamble scored from a lineout maul to pull the margin back to 10 points. But that merely ignited the Brumbies. They responded a minute later with an orthodox backline movement that saw wing Corey Toole come from the blindside wing and into a gap to score. Two minutes from the end, No8 Charlie Cale capped another good backline move to score out wide.

The statistics showed the Waratahs had their opportunities. They beat 30 defenders to 15 and won eight turnovers to five but were only able to make three clean breaks compared to seven by the Brumbies, who carried 513 metres to 401. The Brumbies missed 30 tackles compared to 15 but won the rucks 80 to 58.

Brumbies 40 (Harrison Goddard, Rob Valetini, Corey Toole, Charlie Cale tries; Noah Lolesio 3 con, 4 pen; Jack Debreczeni con) Waratahs 16 (Charlie Gamble try; Will Harrison con; Ten Edmed 3 pen). HT: 16-6

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