Blues beat Queensland Reds 53-26 after a pulsating Super Rugby Pacific clash at Eden Park, Auckland.
The Blues romped to a sublime high-energy eight-try Super Rugby victory over the Queensland Reds in the City of Sails.
Leon MacDonald’s table-topping Blues continue to rumble everything and everyone in their path.
The Kiwis have dropped two fifty-burgers in consecutive weeks against Australian opposition, scoring 19 tries at Eden Park.
The Ioane brothers put on a show at the famous old ground last weekend as the Blues thrashed the Melbourne Rebels 71-28.
Bryce Heem came off the bench to inspire the Blues to an 11th Super Rugby Pacific win in a row.
Heem replaced Rieko Ioane, who left the field early with a hamstring strain.
It did not take long for the substitute to make an impact, scoring a minute after coming on.
The 33-year-old scored twice in the first half as the Aucklanders took a commanding 22-7 lead into the shed.
MacDonald’s men played a high-octane brand of rugby made famous by Blues team’s around the turn of the century.
Things went from bad to worse for Brad Thorn’s tourists as the hosts put their foot on the visitor’s throats.
Beauden Barrett starred for Blues with another classic performance at 10, while Stephen Perofeta shined bright
Beauden Barrett had another virtuoso from the pocket, he ran the show, setting up three tries and scoring one.
It was a dazzling display from first receiver by the generational talent.
Stephen Perofeta, not to be outdone from fullback, scored and set up two tries himself.
The 25-year-old kicked a penalty and five conversions for 18 points as the Blues ran riot.
Caleb Clarke and Soane Vikena also bagged braces to go with Heem, Barrett, and Perofeta’s scores.
Suliasi Vunivalu was sensational on his return to Auckland. Vunivalu scored and set up a try as he cut open the home team at will.
But it was not enough for the free-falling Reds as the ties kept coming.
Jock Campbell claimed a second-half double of his own to go with Vunivala and Ryan smith’s five-pointers.
James O’Connor returned to the starting XV but did not look ready despite playing well. O’Connor landed three conversions (6 pts) and set up Campbell’s first.
The Auckland franchise has now won 18 of their last 19 Super Rugby matches, and 16 of their last 17 versus Australian opposition.
The Reds’ dismal record in New Zealand continues. The Brisbane-based outfit has now lost their last 17 Super Rugby matches across the Tasman.
The blistering Blues leave the Reds reeling with a high-intensity display, but Queensland fight back at the end of the half
MacDonald’s side raced into a 19-minute 17-0 lead. Perofeta converted both Heem and Clarke’s scores to go with his early penalty.
Queensland lost a lineout inside their 22. It was the beginning of several mishaps with their lineout set-piece, and it proved costly.
The Blues pounced through Heem, just off the bench, after the substitute took Barrett’s deft pass, beat Hunter Paisami on the inside, and raced away under the poles.
The next try was vintage Blues from a classic counter-attack from the turnover inside their half.
Clarke dived over in the 18th minute after Ofa Tuungafasi’s cleanout. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck began it all when he broke out from his 22 to halfway.
Tom Robinson combined with lock Josh Tucker as the two locks stormed down the field.
Tucker got stopped short before Heem went close. Eventually, the ball got recycled quickly to Clarke to score.
But the Reds struck through Vunivalu early in the second quarter to make it 17-7 after O’Connor’s conversion.
Queensland managed to finally win an attacking lineout near the Blues’ line.
The ball was sent wide to Vunivalu, who gathered Tate McDermott’s inside pass, and crashed through Kurt Eklund and Finlay Christie.
McDermott had another brilliant game, making two try-saving interventions while setting up his side’s first score.
The tourist’s joy was short-lived as the Kiwis made the Aussies pay for their profligacy
A poor stab-kick from O’Connor allowed the Blues to begin another counter-attack from deep inside their half.
And Heem soon had a double after Seru Uru again lost the ball in contact.
Clarke won the ball from Uru and kick-start the attack. Tuivasa-Sheck, involved as ever, sucked in the defenders before putting Perofeta through a big hole.
The fullback drew the last defender before sending Heem away. Perofeta missed from wide, but the advantage was 15 points.
Somehow, the visitors managed to sort out their lineouts; they also began winning multiple penalties at the breakdown as the Blues infringed repeatedly.
A scrum penalty led to another attack; although nothing came from it.
Vunivalu’s linebreak set up the score. Uru got stopped short, but Ryan Smith crashed over from the next pick-and-go.
O’Connor converted to cut the gap to 22-14 at halftime.
Vintage Blues blow away rattled Reds after the interval with two quickfire tries
The Blues came out firing after halftime, scoring two quick tries before bulldozing the Reds pack late in the half.
The Australians gave away 11 penalties to one in the second stanza and fell off 28 tackles in the game as the Kiwis dropped a half-century.
A mistake from the short kick-off led to Barrett booting a penalty to the corner.
From the set-piece, the home team shifted the ball wide to Barrett, whose basketball loop-pass put Clarke away.
By now, it was the Barrett show. The mercurial first five-eighth tore the Reds apart.
The 30-year-old playmaker started and finished with a sensational score. The flyhalf broke from his own before playing Christie in support.
Heem, once again involved, set up the next phase where Perofeta’s inch-perfect grubber found Barrett for his 37th Super Rugby try.
Barrett also passed 1,300 points, only the third player to ever do it.
Perofeta missed both conversions, but the game was as good as over.
The Blues hold on to their bonus-point to secure a home quarter-final as the Reds folded
The Blues sealed the bonus point when Barrett paid back Perofeta with a score. The veteran flyhalf combined with Mark Telea to send the fullback away.
Perofeta converted to bring up 100 Super Rugby points for the season.
Campbell scored twice for the Brisbane men inside eight minutes.
The fullback, played in by O’Connor, went through untouched with 16 minutes remaining to threaten the Blues’ bonus point.
Campbell second sandwiched Vikena’s brace.
The 26-year-old’s second try came after a stunning run and offload from Vunivalu.
Vikena came off the bench and flopped over twice in quick succession to claim a double from driving mauls.
Final Score: Blues 53 (22) Reds 26 (14)
Tries – Heem (2), Clarke (2), B. Barrett, Perofeta, Vikena (2)
Pen – Perofeta
Con – Perofeta (6)
Tries – Vunivalu, Smith, Campbell (2)
Con – O’Connor (3)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Mabey
Assistant Ref 2: Jono Bredin
TMO: Aaron Paterson
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 James Tucker, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryce Heem, 23 Zarn Sullivan.
Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott (captain), 8 Seru Uru, 7 Angus Scott-Young, 6 Connor Vest, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Feao Fotuaika, 2 Albert Anae, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Matt Faessler, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Tuaina Tualima, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Lawson Creighton.