The Blues managed to decipher a sturdy Force defence to claim a 24-15 victory in Auckland on Saturday.
Most of the first half consisted of a Blues side desperate to break the Western Force defence but were unable before the Perth side claimed the first try through Richie Arnold. The Blues eventually unlocked the code and tries from Akira Ioane and Matt Duffie during a Isi Naisarani yellow card on the 29th minute seemed to be the deciding points.
The win gives the Blues a boost as they go to third place in New Zealand Conference table with 15 points to tie with the Hurricanes with the Wellington men yet to play. The Force languish at fourth place in the Australia Conference on five points.
Despite the hard-fought contest the Blues had too much class in their ranks with Piers Francis orchestrating the Blues attack excellently as well as superb performances from Duffie and replacements Akira Ioane and Rieko Ioane.
It was a quiet first twenty minutes with a Jono Lance penalty the only the points on the board but the Force would consolidate their lead later on with a try from giant second-rower Arnold after he barged over the line from some sustained forwards pressure.
The Force lost their building momentum after a slew of penalties with the Blues opting to go for line each time. The first instance not resulting to anything of substance but in the second the Blues created a handy maul and drove up field and after a sneaky break force number eight Naisarani was yellow carded and the home side opted to scrum.
After some strong defence from the Force the Blues shunted the ball wide and it looked as though winger Duffie had scored before it was called back after George Moala’s pass was deemed forward.
The Blues nearly scored moments later after a another well-placed kick for touch from Francis which led to the fly-half chipping over a kick which was knocked forward on the try line. They finally got over the whitewash though when Akira Ioane barged through a maul to get his side’s first points of the game with Francis adding the extras.
Duffy would get his try and compound his team’s tally when Moala found a mismatch with a front-rower in front of him in his own 22 metre and used his pace to get around him. He took the ball up field and had a two-on-one as the cover defence pressed on him and gave it out to Duffy to score making the half-time tally 12-8.
The Blues looked as though they had grabbed the first points of the half with TJ Faiane scoring after the ball came loose from contact with centre picking up and scoring before the TMO saw that the centre knocked the ball forward putting it into space in the first place.
The home side then added their third try of the game in the 64th minute when the Blues orchestrated a well-worked try when the outside backs let the ball do the work as they passed around the cover defence on the left wing for Rieko Ioane to score.
Michael Collins put the Blues into bonus point territory after an incredible break that saw the flyer burn round the Force cover defence to score.
The away side took the bonus point away from the Blues when Dane Haylett-Petty broke the opposition line to claim a try in the 78th minute. The Blues were adamant on leaving the game with a bonus point after another charge up field which saw Murphy Taramai burst over the line but the pass was deemed forward and it was a Force scrum on the 80-minute mark which led the ball being kicked out.
BLUES – 24
Tries: Akira Ioane(34),Matt Duffie(37),Rieko Ioane(65),Michael Collins (74)
Cons: Piers Francis(35), Ihaia West (66)
FORCE – 15
Tries: Richie Arnold(19), Dane Haylett-Petty (78)
Penalties: Jonno Lance(11)
Cons: Ian Prior (78)
Yellow card: Naisarani
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi or Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rieko Ioane
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Chance Peni, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Richie Arnold, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Daley
Replacments: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Richard Hardwick, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Robbie Coleman
Date: Saturday, April 1
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)