Under-strength Blues still too good for the Reds
A LATE counter-attacking try from replacement flyhalf Stephen Perofeta gave the Auckland Blues a 34-29 victory over the Queensland Reds in a Super Rugby match in Apia yesterday.
Centre Rene Ranger winger Rieko Ioane, flanker Kara Pryor, lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti also scored tries for the Blues, who had taken their ‘home’ game to the Samoan capital.
Reds tighthead prop Taniela Tupou crossed twice, while hooker Andrew Ready and replacement flanker Adam Koczyk also scored for the Australian side, with flyhalf Quade Cooper adding nine points with his boot.
The Blues also had three tries ruled out for various indiscretions, with two coming from forward passes while the third, in the final minute to Akira Ioane, was ruled to have come from an offside position.
The Blues are out of playoff contention, despite having the eighthbest points total of 37, while the Reds, who now have 17 with the bonus point, can no longer clinch the Australian conference following the loss.
With their playoffs chances gone, Blues coach Tana Umaga left several of his frontline players out of the side with an eye on their clash against the British and Irish Lions on Wednesday.
The three-times champions, however, barely missed a step against the Reds with an explosive beginning when Ranger and Ioane both crossed in the first six minutes.
Flanker Pryor also scored in the 28th minute to give the Blues a healthy 17-5 lead.
The Reds managed to keep themselves in the game with tries to prop Tupou and hooker Ready from attacking lineouts that left the halftime score 20-12 to the Blues.
The Australian side stormed back as the Blues struggled with their handling in the humid conditions, with Cooper slotting an early penalty before Korczyk crashed over for another close-range try.
Blues lock Cowley-Tuioti finished off a sweeping movement as the score see-sawed back and forth before Tupou added his second try to give the Reds hopes of being the first Australian side to win over New Zealand opposition this season.
Perofeta, however, touched down for his debut Super Rugby try with six minutes remaining to end those hopes.
● ACT Brumbies assistant coach Dan McKellar will replace Stephen Larkham in the head role next season, the team said yesterday.
Larkham had announced in October that he would leave the Canberra side at the end of the campaign to take up a full-time assistant coaching role with Australia.
McKellar has been at the Brumbies since 2013, and said he was looking to bring in new talent to the club.
“We have lots of young talent at the club and are in the process of looking to consolidate our playing resources for next season,” he said in a team release.
“We are already preparing for the 2018 season in terms of new acquisitions that will help keep the Brumbies at the forefront of Australian rugby.” – Reuters