13 vs 17
The Blues bounced back, after being thumped 43-5 by the Lions last week, with a shaky 17-13 win over a spirited Force side in Perth on Saturday.
The visitors outscored their hosts with two tries, from Jerome Kaino and Tevita Li, to a solo Force effort from captain Matt Hodgson.
The home side, however, came out firing in the opening minutes and at one stage were enjoying 87 percent of the possesion, with a few promising attacks hinting at a rare win for the Force over the three-time champions.
The Force will be lamenting their failure to convert a 65 percent first-half posession and territory advantage into points, this, despite playing against 14-men on two occasions in the match, after Charlie Faumuina and Nic Mayhew both saw yellow for professional fouls.
The win means a lot for Tana Umaga’s troops in terms of the New Zealand Conference table standings, and it will certainly boost morale for the Auckland outfit.
Michael Foley’s men did find gaps with ease in a rather lacklustre Blues defence, but could not add any tries in the first 40, with only a solo Ian Prior penalty to show for at half-time.
A relentless series of attack that orignated from a counter-attack started by scrum-half Billy Guyton resulted in All Black loose forward, Kaino, powering over from close range, Ihaia West added the extras to give the Blues a seven-point lead.
A brilliant display of power and skill from George Moala saw the outside centre evade three defenders and manage a sneaky offload to Tanerau Latimer who then put Li into a half gap and the winger raced in for the second five pointer, West’s conversion extended the lead to 17-3 as the final ten minutes of the first half approached.
The home side finally got over the whitewash but only after an intial try from Kyle Godwin was disallowed when Marcel Brache ran an obstructive line. Captain Matt Hodgson crashed over from the base of the ruck, and the subsequent conversion made it a seven point game with the score on 17-10.
Ben Tapuai added a late second half penalty that set up a thrilling final quarter as a single a try seperated the two sides.
Mayhew’s yellow card in the last five minutes gave the home side a sniff at their first home victory for the season. But despite a few consecutive penalties going their way, the Force knocked on, much to the delight of the visitors as they secured their sixth win.
Pens: Prior, Tapuai
Tries: Kaino, Li
Cons: West 2
Yellow Cards: Faumuina, Mayhew
Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Ian Prior, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Semisi Masirewa
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Billy Guyton, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Male Sa’u
Date: Saturday, May 21
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann, Jordan Way
TMO: Peter Marshall