Blues beat Moana Pasifika 19-32 in the rescheduled Super Rugby Pacific Round One match at Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland.
The Blues held off a rousing second-half Moana Pasifika fightback, despite playing with 14 men for the final quarter of an entertaining Super Rugby match, in the City of Sails.
Ricky Riccitelli bagged a brace for Leon MacDonald’s charges in their five-tries-to-three win over the South Sea Islanders.
Nepo Laulala, however, was sent off for dangerous play, but his ill-discipline did not cost the Blues.
Tamati Tua, Luke Romano, and Finlay Christie also dotted down for the Blues, while Stephen Perofeta kicked a penalty and two conversions (7 pts).
Luteru Tolai, Abraham Pole, and Tomas Alosio crossed for Aaron Mauger’s men, but a historic second Super Rugby Pacific win will have to wait.
D’Angelo Leuila and Lincoln McClutchie added a conversion apiece.
The Blues dominated the first half, leading 19-5 at halftime after scoring three tries to Moana Pasifika’s lone score.
The Kiwis’ pack hurt the opposition as the penalties mounted at the set-piece, which is where the opening score of the game was created.
The Blues pushed Moana off their own feed to kickstart the midfield counter-attack.
Tua, on his second appearance for the Blues, scored after collecting Tanielu Tele’a’s well-weighted grubber.
Perofeta could not convert.
The islanders could not get out of their half, and 15 minutes later, the Blues doubled their lead when Riccitelli crashed over from a powerful rolling maul.
Perofeta found his radar to make it 12-0.
Mark Telea knocked on Perofeta’s kick-pass, which if he had caught, would have been a try; however, it did not matter.
Two minutes later, Perofeta kicked a penalty to the corner for a driving maul, which ended with Riccitelli crossing the whitewash for his double.
The blues opened up a formidible 19-0 lead when Perofeta split the uprights for the second time.
But with time running down in the first stanza, Tolai flopped over following a bulldozing driving maul by the men in blue.
Moana Pasifika came out firing after the break, scoring two tries in the third quarter to stun the Blues
Mauger must have inspired his side during the interval because they pulled the scores to within five points after the hour mark.
Solomone Kata was held up soon after the restart, but Pole dotted down two minutes later.
Tolai helped Pole over the chalk after another well-worked rolling maul from Moana’s forwards. Leuila added the extras.
Momentum had swung in favour of the islanders.
Tolai thought he had a brace after yet another destructive driving maul, but the TMO spotted a double movement by the hooker.
Romano increased his side’s lead after crashing through the blue wall, but a red card and Alosio’s try sparked a frenetic period of play.
The Blues played with 14 players for 20 minutes as the opposition had 75% possession and 80% territory
A 58th-minute red card for a dangerous cleanout by Laulala on Fine Inisi saw the tighthead prop leave the field at 24-12 to the Kiwis.
Moana Pasifika scored almost immediately afterwards, but the Blues also dotted down to negate the Pacific islander’s goal.
The Blues pulled down a driving maul, but McClutchie’s crossfield kick was gathered by Alosio to score. The flyhalf converted to make it 19-24 going into the last quarter.
Seven points were all the designated hosts could muster, however, after netting just two points due to Christie’s 69th-minute score from close range.
Mauger’s side kept up the pressure, but could not find a way through the Blues’ stubborn defence.
With time running out, Romano opted for the points. Perofeta landed the 75th-minute penalty to kill off the islander’s fightback to take the points.
Both teams will do it all over again on the weekend when they meet in Super Rugby Pacific round seven.
Final Score: Moana Pasifika 19 (5) Blues 32 (19)
Tries – Tolai, Pole, Alosio
Con – Leuila, McClutchie
Tries – Tua, Riccitelli (2), Romano, Christie
Pen – Perofeta
Con – Perofeta (2)
Cards – Laulala (Red, 58′)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Mabey
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Winter
TMO: Richard Kelly
Moana Pasifika: 15 D’Angelo Leuila, 14 Tomasi Alosio, 13 Fine Inisi, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Anzelo Tuitavuki, 10 Lincoln McClutchie, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Jack Lam (captain), 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Penitoa Finau, 5 Xavier Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Michael Curry, 3 Joe ‘Apikotoa, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Abraham Pole
Replacements: 16 Joe Royal, 17 Suetena Asomua, 18 Chris Apoua, 19 Alex McRobbie, 20 Josh Kaifa, 21 Manu Paea, 22 Nigel Ah Wong, 23 Lolagi Visinia
Blues: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepens, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Tamati Tua, 12 Tanielu Tele’a, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Taufa Funaki, 8 Anton Segner, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Taine Plumtree, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Luke Romano (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Josh Fusitua, 18 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 19 Cameron Suafoa, 20 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Corey Evans, 23 Jock McKenzie