Super Rugby

Blues too good for feisty Fijian Drua

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Blues beat a feisty Fijian Drua 35-18 in the early Super Rugby Pacific Super Round game at AAMI Park, Melbourne.

The Blues continue their good run of form. The win is their eighth Super Rugby game in a row and the 15th of their last 16 matches in the tournament since last season.

The Blues defeated a defiant Fijian Drua five tries to two, but the contest was far from one-sided.

AJ Lam bagged a brace on either side of halftime as Leon MacDonald’s men marched to another bonus-point victory in Victoria.


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Sam Darry, Marcel Renata, and Rieko Ioane also scored for the Super Rugby table-topping Auckland side.

Beauden Barrett converted all his kicks (10 pts), as well making some big hits in midfield. Barrett also made a bonus-point try-saving tackle on Onisi Ratave before the end.

Opposing five-eighth Simione Kuruvoli had a mixed day at first receiver for Fijian Drua.

He kicked two penalties and converted Mesulame Dolokoto’s eighth-minute try (8 pts) while gifting the Blues two tries from stray passes.

Ratave also dotted down for the entertaining Pacific islanders, who dominated the game.

Fijian Drua had the better of the game, their set-piece, so often shaky, was better than the Blues’

The Blues forwards lost three scrums and two lineouts, while Drua only lost one of each. The men in white hit more than double the rucks, too (109-50).

MacDonald’s men made double the number of tackles (188-91) and conceded seven more turnovers (17-10) in this strange game.

Mick Byrne’s men ended with 63% possession and 56% territory, more runs (127-70) and made more passes (177-104).

Such was the Fijian’s second-half dominance, they had 77% of the ball and spent 74% of the time in the opposition’s half.

But they could only score once in each half and ran out of ideas at the end as the New Zealanders hung on.

Byrne’s charges can be proud of this display; however, the islanders still only have one win from nine Super Rugby Pacific matches, and sit in 11th on the log.

The Blues took a two-goal 21-10 lead over Fijian Drua into the shed

Lam, Darry, and Renata all crossed for converted tries in the first half, but it really should have been more.

Mark Telea’s profligacy probably cost the Blues two scores; one a knock-on before halftime, the other when the winger cut inside the last defender instead of bouncing out.

The Fijians defended the New Zealander’s maul quite well, but could not stop the Blues from scoring off two lineout moves.

The Blues spend more than four minutes inside the opposition’s 22, while the Drua only spent seconds.

The first score came from an early mistake on the attack by Byrne’s side – it would not be the last.

Lam picked up Kuruvoli’s loose pass, which sat up in the breadbasket, and the winger sped away to score under the posts. Barrett converted.

Fijian Drua hit back immediately after a superb move involving backs and forwards.

Tuidraki Samusamuvodre chased and gathered Kitione Taliga’s grubber, and drew the cover defender before sending Dolokoto away on the inside to run around under the sticks. Kuruvoli levelled.

MacDonald’s men began to turn the screw; a sustained attack got stopped before a driving maul was halted.

A well-worked lineout involving both backs and forwards, in the 20th-minute, caught the Drua off guard.

Lam went close but got brought down close to the line. The ball was shifted to the blindside to Hoskins Sotutu, who sucked in the last defender, and put Darry away in the corner.

Barrett converted before Kuruvoli’s 32nd-minute penalty, for Sotutu not releasing, cut the gap to four.

With the clock ticking down, the Kiwis spent some time inside the opposition’s 22, and the pressure finally told.

Another good lineout move saw Tom Robinson go close off the top from Sotutu. The ball was recycled to Ricky Riccitelli; however, the hooker got stopped short.

Renata, only on for a few minutes, picked up the ball and dived over to score next to the posts to extend the advantage.

Fijian Drua dominate much of the second half, but the Blues’ experience shines through for the lead-leading Kiwis

Kuruvoli made it 21-13 seven minutes after the restart when his second penalty bounced in off the right-hand post.

Byrne’s men had come out firing, but could not find a way through any holes, and the Blues made them pay.

Moments later, Fijian Drua had all the ball near the 22, but Ioane intercepted Kuruvoli’s loose pass and raced 75 metres to score under the posts.

It was a hammer blow for the islanders, who had all the momentum only to have the wind sucked out their sails.

But before the hour, Ratave powered his way through to make it 28-18.

The monster winger took a flat pass and burrowed through Riccitelli, Robinson, and Taufa Funaki, for his fifth Super Rugby try after a superb rolling maul by the Fijian forwards.

Despite all the momentum shifting back in favour of Fijian Drua, the Blues did not let up

For the third time in the game, the Auckland side scored from the top of the lineout following a scrum penalty to set up the attack.

The ball went to Lam, who danced his way inside Leone Nawai, and slipped Taliga’s tackle before wriggling over the whitewash for his second try of the night.

Barrett’s fifth conversion extended the lead to 17 points.

Karl Tu’inukuafe went to the sin-bin after multiple offences by the Kiwis, who were under the pump.

Fijian Drua kept coming; they wanted another score, especially to take a bonus point off their illustrious opponents.

Riccitelli’s errant throw on his line led to an eight-phase attack by Drua; however, another sustained attack ended with nothing after the Blues created a turnover to seal the deal.

Final Score: Blues 35 (21) Fijian Drua 18 (10)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – Lam (2), Darry, Renata, R. Ioane
Pen –
Con – B. Barrett (5)
Drop –
Cards – Tu’inukuafe (Yellow, 68′)

Fijian Drua
Tries – Dolokoto, Otave
Pen – Kuruvoli (2)
Con – Kuruvoli
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Chris Hart

Teams

Blues: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett (captain), 9 Taufa Funaki, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Sam Darry, 4 James Tucker, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Jordan Lay.

Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Anton Segner, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Tanielu Tele’a, 23 Jock McKenzie.

Fijian Drua:  15 Kitione Taliga, 14 Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, 13 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 12 Caleb Muntz, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Simione Kuruvoli, 9 Peni Matawalu, 8 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 7 Rusiate Nasove, 6 Meli Derenalagi (captain), 5 Viliame Rarasea, 4 Chris Minimbi, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Mesulame Dolokoto, 1 Meli Tuni.

Replacements:
16 Zuriel Togiatama, 17 Timoci Sauvoli, 18 Jone Koroiduadua, 19 Isoa Nasilasila, 20 Joseva Tamani, 21 Leone Nawai, 22 Apisalome Vota, 23 Frank Lomani.

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