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Classy Blues shut Cheetahs out

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The Blues simply had too much class, pace and power for the Cheetahs and ran out comfortable 26-8 winners in their Super 14 Round 10 match in Auckland on Easter Friday.

In a game in which the scoreline somewhat flattered the Cheetahs, the Blues outscored their opponents by three tries to one to entrench their position at the top of the standings.

Both sides started as if it was going to be the most fluid match of the season. The Blues swept in for a try after just three minutes, and it seemed that running and tries would be the order of the night. But it was not to be. The match stuttered along, relieved only by three brilliant Blues’ tries.

The scrums were – again – a mess. 15 scrums produced 11 resets, three free kicks and a penalty – and those that worked were seldom of great benefit. There were 28 penalties – 17 against the Blues who were warned twice “next time” but that, too did not work. There were six free kicks. That made the match stagger. Poor handling did not add value either.

The Cheetahs, whose team had a reserve look about it, probably did better than expected but, to their credit, they looked for chances to score tries, spurning three opportunities to kick at goal early on in favour of trying to score a try. But they lost possession when it mattered and lost line-outs which counted, two of them five metres from the Blues’ line. They were at their best when they went through phases but the phases were not productive in territory or points. The best aspect of their play was their defence – except on Isaia Toeava.

The Blues scored three tries and for all three they have to thank the young centre whose direct running, strength and skill in the pass were the major difference in class between the two sides. Oh, they had other players like Daniel Braid, abrasive Ali Williams and bouncing Anthony Tuitavake, but really Toeava made the difference.

He set up the first try, which came from a line-out. In fact all four of the tries of the evening came from line-outs, one a glorious try, perhaps the best of the 2007 Super 14 so far.

For the first one the Blues went left and Toeava was simply too strong and thrustful for first Eddie Fredericks and then Marius Joubert as he burst ahead before passing infield to Steve Devine who had an easy score.

After passing up two straightforward kicks at goal the Cheetahs opted to kick one and Herkie Kruger, who had a fine game at flyhalf, slotted the kick made easier when the Blues were not back 10 metres.

The Blues had no hesitation in kicking for goal. If the kickable penalty was out near the touch-line, they went for the line-out, but if the posts looked at them invitingly they kicked at goal. Three times Isa Nacewa goaled for them.

The Cheetahs best attack in the half came from pick-‘n-go after tap kicks but they did not really give the impression of a team about to score a try.

It took the Blues 35 minutes to get their second try – again from a line-out and again thanks to Toeava as he burst between Kruger and Meyer Bosman before giving to Tuitavake, the left wing going right, and Tuitavake bounded ahead and sent a perfect past to Doug Howlett who celebrated his 100th Super rugby match by adding yet another try to his all-time record..

This made the half-time score 16-3.

After Nacewa had goaled his third penalties, the Cheetahs kicked a kickable penalty out six metres from the Blues’ line. This was the fourth line-out of the half. They had lost the first two and the third had ended in a free kick. This one they lost and created a brilliant try for the Blues. Chunky hooker Hans van Dyk over threw the ball and Braid collected the bouncing ball and passed to Nacewa who threw a wonderful long pass to his left and the game was one. Toeava burst away from two attempted tackles as the Cheetahs went chest-high. Toeava gave inside to, Braid who popped to Justin Collins who popped to his left and there was Tuitavake racing with enthusiasm down the left wing to dive over in the corner. Nacewa converted. 26-3.

It was a splendid, breathtaking try. It was also the Blues’ last score of the match.

For much of the rest of the match the Cheetahs dominated possession and territory as the prodigal Blues gave away penalty after penalty,.

There was a fine break by Kruger but that fizzled out and the Cheetahs had four attacking line-outs. They lost two of them, lost the ball in the third and then hit pay dirt.

They caught the ball in a five-metre line-out and formed the maul which gathered personnel as the backs joined in. They had no difficulty in driving the maul over the Blues try for a try which – not for the first time – Rayno van der Merwe scored. By then the siren had gone.

The Blues had also had five-metre line-outs – three of them. One they lost and the Cheetahs had no difficulty in coping with the other two.

Man of the Match: Isaia Toeava.

The scorers:

For the Blues:
Tries: Devine, Howlett, Tuitavake
Con: Nacewa
Pens: Nacewa 3

For the Cheetahs:
Try: Van der Merwe
Pen: Kruger

Teams:

Blues: 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Anthony Tuitavake, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 Steve Devine, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Justin Collins, 5 Troy Flavell (c), 4 Ali Williams, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Replacements: Derren Witcombe, Nick White, Greg Rawlinson, Angus Macdonald, David Gibson, David Holwell, Joe Rokocoko

Cheetahs: 15 Bevin Fortuin, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Tiger Mangweni, 10 Herkie Kruger, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Kabamba Floors, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Heinrich Brussouw, 5 Corniel van Zyl, 4 Rory Duncan, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Hans van Dyk, 1 Ollie le Roux (c)
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Dewald Senekal, 19 Ryno van der Merwe, 20 Falie Oelschig, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Philip Burger

Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Touch judges: Dan Cheever (Australia), Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Assessor: Alan Riley (New Zealand), Dennis Immelman (South Africa)

 365 Digital

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