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Super Rugby: Blues revive play-off hopes with 40-14 win against Western Force in Perth
Fears the Blues may miss the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time were slightly eased on Saturday as they smashed Western Force 40-14 in Perth to move back into contention.
Sir John Kirwan’s side travelled to Perth having lost 13 consecutive matches on the road, but they brought the curtain down on that woeful record by chalking up a bonus point inside the opening quarter and adding two more tries in the second half.
Ihaia West, Charlie Faumuina, Lolagi Visinia and Ma’a Nonu all raced over the whitewash within 17 minutes of kick-off as the Blues, who must win all their games and rely on other results to make the play-offs, amassed a 26-0 lead at the break.
Luke Braid and Pita Ahki took the Blues’ tally to six in the second half after they survived 10 minutes with 14 men, although tries from Nathan Charles and Brynard Stander offered a form of consolation for the Force.
Despite enduring a wretched time away from their beloved Eden Park, the Auckland-based franchise stormed out of the blocks at the nib Stadium with livewire fly-half West flying over in the fourth minute.
Winger George Moala stabs an excellent kick through the floundering Force defence and West offered a fine turn of pace to latch onto the ball and touch down the opening score of the match, before nailing the conversion from the touchline.
If the Blues’ first came courtesy of pace, their second was a display of brute force as Faumuina crashed over the line five minutes and highly-rated stand-off West slotted the extras as the visitors doubled their advantage.
A flat-footed Force defence could not contain the free-flowing Blues, who continued to run riot as they spread the ball wide to Visinia and the full-back slipped in the corner to add a third try.
The rampant Blues were aided by gaping holes in the Force backline and the ever-potent All Black centre Nonu powered through to add the all-important bonus-point score, which West converted with ease.
After a devastating opening spell, Force enjoyed the majority of possession and territory in the lead-up to half time but their efforts were fruitless as they returned to the dressing room scoreless.
Michael Foley’s Force continued where they left off before the break and pushed the Blues defence to the brink, with Tom Donnelly paying the price for a number of infringements with 10 minutes in the sin bin.
A resilient Blues defence successfully saw off the Force threat and immediately turned the tables on the hosts to claim their fifth try of the night.
While Force may have lacked patience in attack, it proved to be a virtue for the Blues as they worked through a series of phases before Braid was eventually driven over the line.
Despite being some 33 adrift, the Force refused to lie down and found a consolation try on 65 minutes as Charles crashed over after the hosts’ scrum set an excellent platform.
The Blues restored their 33-point advantage as replacement Ahki seized on a fortuitous bounce to fly over and add a sixth try, but it was the Force who finished with a flourish as Stander sneaked over the line in overtime.