Blues, Highlanders beat Aussie foes in Super Rugby Pacific

·2-min read

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Shocked into action after conceding two tries in the first five minutes, the Auckland-based Blues scored 11 tries of their own Friday to overwhelm the Melbourne Rebels 71-28 in Super Rugby Pacific.

The Blues conceded early tries to Rebels prop Pone Fa’amausili and lock Josh Canham to trail 14-0 in the fifth minute, then quickly rallied with a double to backrower Akira Ioane to level at 14-14 in Auckland.

By halftime, the Blues had scored seven tries and led 47-14.

In the other match, the Dunedin-based Highlanders made it two wins for New Zealand teams over Australian opponents with a 27-19 victory. The Highlanders won for only the third time in 11 matches while the Reds lost their third in a row.

The second half in Auckland was more orderly than the first as the frenetic scoring pace subsided. But the Blues are not a second-half team. Throughout the season, their success has been based on building substantial leads, then holding on in the second half.

On Friday, they outscored the Rebels 24-14 after halftime.

The Blues took 14 minutes to score their first try of the second half, center Rieko Ioane’s second of the match. Flyhalf Stephen Perofeta touched down five minutes later and his conversion of his own try was his eighth from nine attempts.

Ioane completed his hat trick — the second of his career against the Rebels — in the 63rd minute, making the score 66-14.

The Blues finished with their largest-ever win in a home game at Eden Park.

“We’ve got a lot to learn. We can’t start matches like that against other opponents,” Blues captain Dalton Papali’i said. “We just need to find a balance.

“Some games we defend really well but the attack is not there. This game we attacked well but there wasn’t much defense."

The win left the Blues in first place.

The Highlanders beat the Reds for the fifth time in a row. They trailed 12-10 at halftime in Brisbane but managed to work their way back into the match and took control in the second half.

Replacement halfback Folau Fakatava came on to provide the spark the visitors needed, setting up a try and picking up one of his own.

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