24 vs 16
The Blues returned to the victory trail when they claimed a hard-fought 24-16 triumph over the Jaguares in Albany on Saturday.
The home side outscored the Jaguares two tries to zero with Ihaia West leading the way with a 19-point haul via a well-taken try, a conversion and four penalties.
This win – their first since they beat the Highlanders in Round One – was an important one for the Blues as it keeps them in touch of their rivals on the New Zealand Conference standings. They are still at the bottom, but have now narrowed the gap to four points on the Hurricanes.
The Jaguares’ woes continue, meanwhile, and they are still winless since they beat the Cheetahs in their season opener.
Both sides gave the ball plenty of air, but also committed a plethora of unforced errrors which resulted in neither side gaining the upper hand for an extended period.
The Jaguares made the brighter start and dominated the possession and territorial stakes in the opening quarter but a Santiago González Iglesias penalty was all they had to show for their efforts.
The Blues were dealt a blow in the 21st minute when they were reduced to 14 men, after referee Mike Fraser issued a yellow card to Tevita Li, but although González Iglesias slotted the resulting penalty to extend their lead, they couldn’t capitalise on their numerical advantage by scoring more points.
And just before Li returned from his spell in the sin-bin it was the Blues who scored the opening try – Steven Luatua crashing over from close quarters after Lolagi Visinia did well in the build-up with a strong run from the back.
West extended his side’s lead with a penalty in the 37th minute before West showed a superb turn of speed before crossing for his side’s second try on the stroke of half-time, after running on to a perfectly-weighted pass from Rene Ranger just outside the Jaguares’ 22.
The scrappy nature of this clash continued in the second half, with both sides staying true to their attacking roots, but a combination of poor finishing and handling errors meant that only one try was scored during this period.
González Iglesias had slotted a penatly in the 45th minute before West cancelled that out with penalties of his own in quick succession by the hour-mark.
And we had to wait until the 63rd minute for that five-pointer when Billy Guyton failed to gather a Nicolas Sánchez kick in front of the Blues’ tryline.
Sánchez secured a turnover after Guyton’s fumble and the ball was recycled quickly before Gonzalo Bertramou spotted a gap and dived over for his side’s only try.
And although the Jaguares came within five points of the Blues with Bertramou’s try, West secured victory for the hosts with another penalty in the 70th minute.
BLUES – 24
Tries : Steven Luatua (30), Ihaia West (38)
Penalties : Ihaia West (36,54,59,69)
Drops : None
Cons : Ihaia West(40)
JAGUARES – 16
Tries : Gonzalo Bertranou (62)
Penalties : Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias (8,23,45)
Drops : None
Cons : Nicolas Sanchez (63)
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Nic Mayhew.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 George Moala.
Jaguares – 15 Ramiro Moyano, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Santiago González Iglesias, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Roberto Tejerizo.
Subs: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Cruz Guillemaín, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Gonzalo Bertramou, 22 Nicolás Sánchez, 23 Joaquin Paz.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)