Blues put Force to the sword
Auckland - The Blues unleashed a three-try burst in the second half to beat an injury-ravaged Western Force 32-9 at Eden Park on Saturday and boost their hopes of avoiding Super Rugby's wooden spoon.
Flank 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 of the standings.
The Lions sit bottom of the southern hemisphere's provincial championship, seven points behind the Force with two matches to play.
The Blues took a 13-9 lead at the end of an uninspiring first half littered with handling errors and befitting of the teams' lowly standing.
The Blues had the edge in territory and Ma'a 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 open the game 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 flyhalf 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.
In next weekend's Round 18 action, the Blues travel to Canberra to face the Brumbies, while the Force visit Christchurch to tackle the Crusaders.
15 Charles Piutau, 14 Lachie Munro, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Luke Braid, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Chris Lowrey, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Orene Ai'i, 22 Hadleigh Parkes
15 Alifeleti Mafi, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Locky McCaffrey, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Manu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan
Substitutes: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Ruan-Henry Smith, 18 Oliver Atkins, 19 Anare Koliavu, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Kyle Godwin, 22 Patrick Dellit