The Blues defeated a defiant Brumbies 12-18 at GIO Stadium in Canberra and keep the Kiwi win-streak against Australian opposition going.
It has not been good going for Aussie teams this campaign and this loss made it 15 on the bounce against New Zealand opposition.
A tight, tense match was broken open in the 69th minute when Melani Nanai collected Matt Duffie’s inside ball to give the visitors their third try and a bonus point win.
Wharenui Hawera’s boot kept the Brumbies within touching distance of the Blues as the standoff kicked four penalties to Bryn Gatland’s one.
Ultimately, it was in vain as the tourists held on for their fourth win of the season, keeping the Brumbies tryless in the process.
The Blues started the game with a prolonged, sustained bout of pressure, spending most of the opening 11 minutes inside the Brumbies’ 22. Somehow, they did not score.
Some resilient defence by Stephen Larkham’s side kept the Blues at bay. Gatland and Hawera traded penalties but the game was an arm-wrestle.
Duffie went close but his acrobatics went unrewarded after the TMO ruled he had grounded the ball in touch.
He did, however, cross the whitewash on the half hour mark. The Blues sent the ball wide, George Moala stayed upright in the contact and managed to offload to Duffie. It’s the ex-Melbourne Storm player’s fifth try of the campaign.
It was a well-worked move in the wide channel and the ex-Melbourne Storm player scored his fifth try of the campaign.
Gatland, who had a poor day from the kicking tee, missed the touchline conversion but the Blues has a 3-8 lead at the break.
The Blues spent five minutes 53 seconds inside the Brumbies’ 22 during the opening 40 minutes. The hosts, two minutes 50. The territory and possession were 65 percent in favour of the visitors.
The Brumbies had made 79 tackles to 27, missing 17 to one. How they were still in the game, was anyone’s guess.
The Brumbies had a chance to go into halftime down a point but they opted to not take a shot at goal.
Two early second-half penalties by Hawera made Sam Carter’s decision not to kick the last play penalty more baffling. 9-8 should have read 12-8 and might have made the difference.
Instead, Akira Ioane scored his second try of the season. It came from a line-out and rolling maul and the visitors had a 9-13 lead; one they would not relinquish.
On 62 minutes Hawera reduced the gap back to a single point when he kicked his fourth penalty.
It was the Blues who finished stronger. Some sustained pressure, where the Brumbies conceded four penalties, was rewarded with a wonderfully worked first-phase move.
Augustine Pulu collected a pass from Steven Luatua, who picked up from the base of a scrum.
The scrumhalf flung a wide floated skip-pass to Duffie. The winger sucked in Aidan Toua and passed back on his inside shoulder to the supporting Nanai on the angle.
Larkham’s side had one last attack. But, they fluffed their chance when Carter dropped an easy pass on the Blues’ 22 and the visitors held out for the win.
Final Score: Brumbies 12 (3) Blues 18 (8)
Pen – Hawera (4)
Tries – Duffie, A. Ioane, Nanai
Pen – Gatland
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 1: Ed Martin
Assistant Ref 2: Graham Cooper
TMO: George Ayoub
15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lolo Fakaosilea, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Nic Mayhew.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Aidan Toua.
15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Melani Nanai