The Blues ran in eight tries to thump a feisty Cheetahs side 50-32 at Eden Park tonight, banking a crucial bonus point in the process.
It wasn’t always pretty – the team will rue some handling errors and a lack of cohesion during much of the first half – but sometimes it absolutely was, with plenty of tonight’s tries likely to feature in Super Rugby highlights reels.
The Blues looked likely early. Piers Francis split the opposition within the first two minutes, and if it weren’t for some desperate scrambling defence less than 5m out from the try line, the home team would have drawn first blood then and there.
Instead, the Cheetahs scored the first points just five minutes later thanks to a try by lock Francois Venter, who managed to bulldoze over with Blues defenders clinging to him.
But Rieko Ioane answered straight back, finishing off a scintillating attacking play by fullback Melani Nanai, who drew in the defenders, before popping the perfect pass. The rest was history, as the flying winger streaked clear.
Impressive Cheetahs hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld got another for the visitors, before right-lock Scott Scrafton once again demonstrated his uncanny ability for finding the tryline, scoring his second try in two weeks.
This time the Blues didn’t give the Cheetahs an opportunity to answer back. Akira Ioane joined his little brother on the list of try scorers for the second week in a row.
From there, the match seemed to lose much of its structure, until Patrick Tuipulotu scored a supreme solo effort in his first game back from injury just before half time, rumbling over from about 20m out.
The Cheetahs followed that up with two penalties, making the score 24-18 at halftime.
Steven Luatua was justly rewarded for another barnstorming performance, catching a choice little offload from Charlie Faumuina – who did well to free the ball while wrapped up by multiple defenders – and then crashing over for the first try of the second half.
The proverbial flood gates threatened to open when dynamic halfback Augustine Pulu got in on the try-scoring act not long after, and then Rieko got his second try of the night, before the Cheetahs finally managed to peg one back.
Melani kept the scoreboard ticking over for the home side, finishing off a lovely end-to-end effort in trademark style. Huggett ended the night with his second try for the Cheetahs.
It’s the Blues’ third victory in as many games, following back-to-back victories over the Brumbies and Waratahs in Australia. The team will be looking to extend that streak further against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday morning (NZ time), before they take on the Chiefs in our final home game of the regular season. Get tickets here.
Blues 50 (Tries – R.Ioane 2, Scrafton, A.Ioane, Tuipulotu, Luatua, Pulu, Nanai; Conversions – Francis 2, West 3)
Cheetahs 32 (Tries – F.Venter, Jaarsveld, Huggett 2; Conversions – Zeilinga 3; Penalties – Zeilinga 2)