Blues snap long winless run against Chiefs as Tahs punish Reds
Wellington (AFP) –
The Auckland Blues snapped an eight-year, 15-match winless run against the Waikato Chiefs Saturday as the NSW Waratahs punished the Queensland Reds for an 11th successive time in a try-fest.
Gerard Cowley-Tuioti sealed the vital win for the Blues with his touchdown after the full-time hooter ensuring a 23-8 bonus point victory.
It was the first time they have beaten their nearest neighbours since round six in 2011.
In Brisbane, the Tahs' incredible run against their oldest rivals continued with a pulsating 40-32 win that featured 10 tries.
The Waratahs only got four of them with Bernard Foley's boot winning the match as he kicked four conversions and four penalties. In contrast, the Reds' Bryce Hegarty missed five conversions.
It was a crucial win to keep them in touch with the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference with the Super Rugby finals fast approaching.
The Blues' victory, which snapped a run of four losses, moved them ahead of the Chiefs into fourth-place in the New Zealand standings and kept alive their slim hope of making the play offs.
"It's very satisfying," an elated Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu said.
"After our run in the last couple of games to come in and finish it off like that, I'm very happy."
Chiefs captain Brad Weber described the outcome as "incredibly frustrating".
"We were our own worst enemies out there," he said.
In the opening plays, both sides opted for scrums instead of penalties in the shadow of the posts, only to turn over the ball.
After missed opportunities at both ends, the Chiefs finally mounted a length-of-the-field attack and put the first points on the board.
Rieko Ioane was caught in possession and when he tried to offload the ball it was grabbed by Mitchell Karpik who dotted down.
The Blues also benefitted from turnover ball for their first points with Harry Plummer scoring in the corner.
When a Marty McKenzie penalty put the Chiefs back in front, the Blues regained the lead with a Melani Nanai try just before half-time.
A Plummer penalty and a try to Ofa Tu'ungafasi in the second half pushed the Blues out for 18-8 before Cowley-Tuioti's try capped the performance.
- Waves of momentum -
In Brisbane, Foley's kicking was almost flawless, leaving skipper Michael Hooper a happy man.
"It was a really enjoyable game. Both teams were riding waves and waves of momentum. I was glad we could wrestle it back," he said.
"We've had trouble with some of our set-pieces, particularly our scrum, so a couple of penalties there at the death was a huge boost."
They got an early breakthrough when Foley rolled through a tackle to post the first five-pointer on three minutes. But the Reds quickly hit back with giant lock Angus Blyth driving head down over the line from a scrum for his maiden Super Rugby try.
The home team grabbed another minutes later when Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi burst through two tackles and flicked a clever pass to Jock Campbell who also scored his first try in the competition.
In a free-flowing game, Michael Wells pulled one back for the Tahs before Sefa Naivalu latched onto a Hegarty grubber kick for the fifth try of the half with the Reds going to the break 15-14 in front.
Three more tries came within nine minutes of the restart -- two to Hegarty and one from Alex Newsome as the game came alight.
Wells got his second to inch the Waratahs in front on 53 minutes, before Alex Mafi collected a kick to the wing and ran over for the Reds' sixth try.
But three late penalties booted by Foley sealed the win.
? 2019 AFP