Super Rugby round-up: Blues shock Bulls in Auckland; Reds blitz Rebels
Last Updated: 19/05/15 1:56pm
A late try to centre George Moala sealed the Blues 23-18 win over the Bulls in Auckland on Friday but is unlikely to quieten calls for the replacement of Blues coach John Kirwan.
The Blues' win was only their third in 13 matches this season, and improved their record under Kirwan to 16 wins from 45 matches over the past three years.
Moala's try in the 67th minute retrieved the lead for the Blues, who led 16-13 at halftime but fell behind 18-16 after Bulls center Jan Serfontein scored the second of his two tries in the 50th.
The Bulls took a bonus point to edge ahead of the Cape Town-based Stormers in the South African conference, while the Blues remain 13th overall and in last place in New Zealand.
Calls for Kirwan's removal have grown in volume in recent weeks as the Blues who have the largest player catchment area in New Zealand have sunk towards the bottom of the table for the third straight season.
Kirwan, who has previously coached Italy and Japan, has failed to stimulate the Auckland team, and the Blues' management is under pressure to find a replacement who can lead the franchise to its fourth championship, and its first since 2003.
Friday's fortuitous win did little to alleviate that pressure. The Blues were inept in almost every area of play, and relied on brief moments of brilliance in both halves to edge the Bulls, who once again showed an inability to close out wins away from home.
Full-back Lolagi Visinia scored a 19th-minute try, weaving past two defenders, which gave the Blues an early lead, and they were able to hold that advantage, despite Serfontein's first try 10 minutes before the break.
The Bulls went ahead with Serfontein's second try, but relinquished the lead to Moala's late try and weren't able to re-establish any sort of control. They outplayed the Blues in the tight, dominating scrums and lineouts, but played a one-dimensional style throughout the second half.
The Blues are still heading for their worst ever season, and will likely be New Zealand's poorest-performing Super Rugby team.
Elsewhere, Queensland Reds put their recent poor form behind them this season to stage a stunning second-half display in a 46-29 triumph over the Rebels in Brisbane.
Trailing 17-11 to their Melbourne-based opponents at the interval, the Reds recovered superbly to register five second-half tries.
The Rebels managed four tries of their own to secure a losing bonus point, but they were blown away by the pace and precision of the Reds' running game.
Rebels wing Sefanaia Naivalu left his mark by scoring two blistering tries, while his team-mates Luke Jones and Dom Shipperley also touched down, yet the Reds found another gear when they had to.
Wing Lachlan Turner led the way with a try double, and there were also touchdowns for Liam Gill, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Jake McIntyre and Rob Simmons, with James O'Connor kicking 16 points.
It was only the Reds' third Super Rugby win this term, and the victory will be a welcome boost for the remainder of their campaign.
And it coincided with former Australia coach John Connolly joining up with the Reds' coaching staff, as his charges produced their best performance of the season.
The Rebels, though, saw their play-off hopes suffer a major dent, and they will need to recover quickly as the scramble for places continues.