Super rugby Trans Tasman

Sotutu double books Blues Super Rugby final

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The Blues beat the Western Force 31-21 after another dominant display to book their place in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final at Eden Park, Auckland.

Hoskins Sotutu bagged a brace as the Blues cruised to a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final showdown with the Highlanders next weekend in the City of Sails.

The Blues only needed a win to claim a first home Super Rugby final in 19 years at the famous old ground, and they did it with ease.

With the Crusaders not winning by 33 points against the Melbourne Rebels, the Blues only needed to win – bonus points were not a factor. And win they did.

Leon McDonald’s charges raced into a 28-0 halftime lead, but Tim Sampson’s side hit back with two tries in the third quarter to make it 28-14.

Sotutu scored twice, and Dalton Papalii and Mark Telea also dotted down in the first stanza as the Blues put to bed any chance of the Force pulling off an unlikely upset.

Feleti Kaitu’u and Tevita Kuridrani’s two tries in eight minutes halved the deficit for the Western Force.

But Otere Black’s 64th-minute penalty stopped the rot, it gave the Blues a 17-point lead with 17 minutes remaining.

Black also converted all four tries, which gave him 11 points in the match and a perfect record from the tee.

A late surge from the Australians saw Rob Kearney cross for his side’s third try, but his try flattered the Force.

The Blues had more chances, but it did not matter as they finally brought a home final back to Auckland for the first time since 2003.

The Blues blow away the Western Force by halftime with four converted tries to nil

It was a win and go through; lose and go home. The game was done by halftime as the hosts sped into a 28-0 lead.

TJ Faiane’s crossfield kick was gathered by Telea, who burst through the opposition’s defenders.

The ball got recycled to Rieko Ioane, who took out three defenders with a switch pass to Sotutu, who raced away to open the scoring in the 10th-minute.

The Force began well, keeping the home team to seven points until the 28th-minute before the floodgates opened.

The Perth-based team imploded soon after Telea’s try, conceding two more before the break.

Telea collected Rieko Ioane’s bounce-pass and beat Rob Kearney to the corner with an early dive.

The Force’s set-piece broke down. They lost several lineouts (one of which led to Papalii’s try), their scrum was creaking, and the Kiwis were bossing the breakdown.

The hosts started to turn the screw, and as the pressure mounted, so did the points.

Papalii ghosted between the posts to grab his team’s third on 34 minutes after Akira Ioane stole a lineout.

MacDonald’s side went through the phases before Sotutu’s deft pass opened up the Force’s defence, and the flanker burst through.

If the game was not over then, it was soon afterward when Sotutu crashed over for his second, two minutes before the break.

The Western Force fight back after the break with three converted scores, but Blues hang on for the win

The Force did, however, come out fighting after the interval, while the home side looked lethargic.

Sampson’s charges outscored the home side 21-3, scoring three tries, while the Blues could only manage a 64th-minute Black penalty.

The Western Australians managed to get on the board with an early second-half try when Kaitu’u bashed his way over the whitewash.

Kuridrani powered through Finlay Christie’s tackle before the hour as the Force continued to improve.

They began to get their driving maul going, and they contested the breakdown better.

A midfield driving maul earned the Blues a kickable penalty, which they took.

Black made it 31-14 to open up a comfortable lead and secure the victory, and it could have been more.

Telea walked over for another five, but the score was not given.

Ray Niuia was yellow carded for a dangerous cleanout in the build-up to Telea’s second score.

The try was chalked off, and Niuia went to the bin for the rest of the game. The card sparked the visitors into life.

They could have had a couple of tries but for good defending by the Blues. Eventually, the Force’s numerical advantage told.

Kearney took Richard Kahui’s pass to score with three minutes remaining after Domingo Miotti’s deft touch opened up space.

Miotti converted, but the Blues ticket office had already begun printing the tickets for the final.

Final Score: Blues 31 (28) Western Force 21 (0)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – Sotutu (2), Telea, Papalii
Pen – Black
Con – Black (3)
Drop –
Cards – Niuia (Yellow, 70′)

Western Force
Tries – Kaitu’u, Kuridrani, Kearney
Pen –
Con – Prior (2), Miotti
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Brendon Pickerill

Teams

Blues

15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman

Replacements:
16 Ray Niuia, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam

Western Force

15 Jake Strachan, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Ollie Callan, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson

Replacements:
 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Rob Kearney

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