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Blues brush aside Force
Second-half blitz sees home side romp to victory
The Auckland Blues unleashed a three-try second-half burst to beat an injury-ravaged Western Force 32-9 at Eden Park and strengthen their hopes of avoiding Super Rugby's wooden spoon.
Flanker Steven Luatua scored a try in the first half and Charles Piutau, Ma'a Nonu and Luke Braid all crossed in quick succession in the second to secure the Blues their third win in the penultimate round of a dismal season.
The Blues' bonus-point victory from scoring four tries lifted them a point above Perth-based Force into third from the bottom in the standings.
Johannesburg-based Lions sit bottom of the southern hemisphere's provincial championship, seven points behind the Force with two matches to play.
The home side had the edge in territory and Nonu raised a brief burst of enthusiasm from the sparse crowd by driving toward the line in the 28th minute but was denied a try by video review.
Luatua burrowed over the line near the right-hand corner moments later, however, to put the Blues up 8-6 against the Force who lacked captain David Pocock and veteran lock Nathan Sharpe due to injury.
Blues fullback Piutau broke the game open 15 minutes after the break, touching down at the right corner again after taking a long pass from Nonu.
Nonu helped himself to his 100th first-class try minutes later, cantering 10 metres to the line, with an off-load from substitute Peter Saili cutting the Force defence to ribbons.
Number eight Luke Braid joined the party with a fourth try 10 minutes from the whistle.
Force fly-half Ben Seymour slotted three penalties in the first half to score all of his side's points as the visitors were kept scoreless for the last 45 minutes and slumped to their 12th loss of the season.