Evans leads Blues to vital bonus point win



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The Blues revival continued on Saturday when they kept their Super 14 play-off hopes alive with Nick Evans leading a vital 40-15 bonus-point win over the Highlanders.

With their mid-competition slump behind them, the Blues backed up from last week’s win over the Reds to move within four of the Hurricanes, who they meet in their final round-robin match next week.

The Blues, who know their fate also rests on the outcome of matches featuring other top-four contenders, were in imposing form from the start against the Highlanders.

Although tries were slow in coming their dominance was such that they were in a handy position for Evans to kick three early penalties.

Evans was the spearhead of the Blues five tries to two win. He contributed 23 points from two tries, two conversions and three penalties before being subbed with 20 minutes left.

“It’s crunch time in the competition and that win was pretty vital for us,” a relieved Blues captain Troy Flavell said.

“We knew if we could break these guys down in the first 20 (minutes), show a bit of attitude, play with composure and stick to the structure we would go a long way and it paid off.”

It was a game the Blues were expected to win, but the bonus point was a long time coming.

After Evans landed his first three penalties and Mike Delany replied with one for the Highlanders, the Blues scored three tries in a 10-minute burst to lead 26-3 at half-time.

Evans first was a solo effort after he fielded his own chip kick to score in the corner.

He scored his second try, taking the ball on the short side of a ruck, and converted, and then Rudi Wulf touched down from a blind side move.

But the Highlanders, rebuilding this season and never considered a championship threat, were not ready to give up and they came back with two tries in the opening stages of the second half.

Jimmy Cowan started a counter-attack with a quick penalty, which ended with Aaron Bancroft scoring in the right corner and Delany converting. Then Craig Newby ignited a move, with saw Adam Thomson score.

At 26-15 the outcome was still in doubt but the bonus point try revived the Blues.

It came from a series of attacks close to the line which ended with Anthony Tuitavake cutting back and opening a hole in the Highlanders backline.

Evans converted in his final act of a stellar night.

The Blues final points came just before full-time when the Highlanders lost the ball on the Aucklanders line and David Smith ran the length of the field to score under the posts, with Evans’ replacement Ben Atiga adding the conversion.

Sapa-AFP –

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