Auckland’s Blues kick off the weekend’s Super Rugby action with a match against Queensland’s Reds in Apia Samoa on Friday.
This match is the first ever Super Rugby match in Samoa and both teams have selected players with Samoan heritage.
The Blues and Reds have played each other 21 times in Super Rugby since 1996; the Blues have won nine, lost 10 and there have been two draws.
The Blues have won their last 11 home games against sides from outside of New Zealand, including six wins against Australian opposition in that run.
Both sides are, effectively, out of the running for a playoff berth.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
1.00: BEEP! BEEP! Ben O’Keeffe gets the first ever Super Rugby match in Samoa, underway. Piers Francis takes the kick-off. It’s a bit humid in Apia, something that might suit the Australians, but the weather should not be a factor.
3.00: The Reds survive an early scare after botching the kick-off. The Blues spread the ball left and right, went through 15 phases and almost score, but Francis throws a forward pass.
4.00: TRY Rene Ranger! The Blues get a tighthead, go right to Ranger, who last played in Round 3. The centre makes light work of his defender to score.
5.00: Francis adds the extras.
7.00: TRY Rieko Ioane! Kara Pryor takes Tinoai Faiane’s pass, breaks up the field and offloads to Ranger, who draws the cover defender and sends the wing away to score.
8.00: Francis misses from near the sideline.
10.00: The Blues are penalised a couple of times in quick succession. Quade Cooper will kick to touch. Samu Kerevi is down injured and will leave the field. It looks a bad ankle injury, and the Reds’ skipper will not return.
13.00: The Reds apply some pressure with their driving maul. They get over the whitewash but are held up.
14.00: Jake McIntyre will move to fullback and Karmichael Hunt, will go to outside-centre in place of his captain.
15.00: TRY Taniela Tupou! The Queensland maul was excellent; they are, however, stopped short. James Tuttle waits, looks up and sees the prop charging towards him, passes and the big man is over.
16.00: Cooper misses a sitter.
17.00: The Reds botch another restart, and almost pay for it. They are all over the shop.
20.00: The Reds survive another scare; they need to sort out their restarts and defence. It’s all too easy for the Blues, who like scoring every time they touch the ball.
24.00: A kicking battle ensues. The Reds are kicking aimlessly, while the Blues are giving possession away; strange passage of play.
27.00: Tinoai Faiane breaks through the Reds so-called defence. He slips two tackles before being caught. The second-five throws an inside ball over the cover defender to Piers Francis, but it’s forward.
29.00: TRY Kara Pryor! The Blues go to the driving maul, split and power over the try line. The Reds defenders took out the pod with Gerard Cowley-Tuioti after the lock collected the lineout throw. That was too easy and poor defending of the set piece from the Aussies.
30.00: The conversion attempt is missed by Francis.
33.00: TRY Andrew Ready! The Reds go to their lineout driving maul. It’s another well-worked set piece from the Queenslanders. Like the Blues’ previous score, they split the pods and the hooker crashes over.
34.00: Conversion is good from Cooper.
37.00: Penalty to the Reds after Chris Kuridrani is tackled high. The Blues win the loose ball from the Reds’ lineout, however, they win the ball back through some excellent work at the breakdown from Scott Higginbotham.
39.00: BIG HIT! James Parsons smokes Hunt, forcing the ball forwards. The Reds are pinged for offsides after playing the ball in front of James Tuttle.
40.00: PENALTY! Francis kicks a big kick – from near the halfway line – and extends his team’s lead to eight.
The half-time score was Blues 20 Reds 12
The Blues have had all the territory and possession, but somehow, the Reds are still in this game.
41.00: BEEP! BEEP! We are underway in the second-half in Samoa.
43.00: Duncan Paia’aua makes a bursting run through midfield. The Reds turn the ball over and the Blues attack. The sweaty hands are causing a few knock ons.
45.00: The Blues are penalised for offsides inside their 22. Cooper will take a shot at goal.
46.00: PENALTY! Cooper can’t miss from in front. That is only the fifth penalty from the standoff all season.
49.00: Jordan Trainor goes close but is held up over the whitewash by George Smith.
51.00: The scrum is reset. The Reds power towards the try line but are held up again. Good defence by the Blues, but they are under some pressure.
53.00: TRY Adam Korczyk! An excellent run from Cooper before an inside ball to Eto Nabuli sets up another quick ball ruck for the substitute to score.
54.00: Cooper adds the easy conversion and the Reds lead by two.
58.00: It’s all Queensland in Apia; they’ve had 83 percent possession to 20 in the first-half and they have scored 10 points to nil as we enter the final quarter. George Smith is penalised for offsides and the Blues clear.
60.00: Good field position and possession is botched by Akira Ioane, and the Reds clear.
61.00: TRY Gerard Cowley-Tuioti! A wonderful team try by the Blues. Some deft handling on the touchline sees the Blues surge up the field. Sam Nock breaks into the 22, looks for support and finds the lock on his inside. Magic.
62.00: Perofeta can’t miss from there.
63.00: TRY Taniela Tupou! The Reds hit back immediately. They regather a charged down kick, go through some quick phases before the tighthead crashes over for his second try of the night.
64.00: Cooper puts the Reds back in front.
67.00: Ranger goes close but is out in touch. The Reds survive and restart with a 22 drop-out.
71.00: Francis’ kick goes over the dead-ball line, but the referee adjudges that Duncan Paia’aua touched the ball, so the Blues will have a five-metre scrum. The Reds win the penalty and the forwards are celebrating.
74.00: TRY Stephen Perofeta! Akira Ioane created the space with a break near the sideline. The No 8 passes to Melani Nanai, who races to the try-line, side steps Nabuli, but is stopped short by James Tuttle. However, they recycle the ball quickly and Perofeta scores from close range.
75.00: Perofeta adds the conversion.
80.00: TRY Akira Ioane! Wait, we are going upstairs for offsides. No try. Penalty to the Reds. Cooper kicks to touch and they set up a driving maul. The hooter sounds but we will have one last scrum.
81.00: The ball is lost and the Blues hang on. Game over.
The final score after 80 minutes is Blues 34 (20) Reds 29 (12)
Tries – Ranger, R. Ioane, Pryor, Cowley-Tuioti, Perofeta
Pen – Francis
Con – Francis, Perofeta (2)
Tries – T. Tupou (2), Ready, Korczyk
Pen – Cooper
Con – Cooper (2)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Will Houston
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Shane McDermott
15 Melani Nanai,14 Declan O’Donnell, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Tinoai Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons (captain),
1 Alex Hodgman.Duncan Paia’aua
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Jordan Trainor.
15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi (captain), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Kirwan Sanday, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Caleb Timu, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Jake McIntyre.