Auckland - The Blues survived a second-half fightback by the Melbourne
Rebels to force their way back into the Super Rugby top six with a 36-32
win in an 11-try thriller at Eden Park on Saturday.
star Frank Halai laid the platform for the victory with his hattrick of
tries in the first half, while Francis Saili added another two and Rene
Ranger scored the Blues' lone second half try.
The Rebels, who
came back from a 10-29 deficit at half-time to be rewarded with two
bonus points, scored five tries with two for Mitch Inman and one apiece
to Scott Higginbotham, Lachie Mitchell and Jason Woodward.
lifted the Blues two places into fifth ahead of the Canterbury
Crusaders who have a bye this weekend while the Central Cheetahs, who
lost to the Wellington Hurricanes 39-34, slipped down to seventh.
while the Blues claimed maximum points to remain in play-off
contention, they showed they have a lot to work on if they are to remain
in the top six.
Although right wing Halai and inside centre Saili
were threatening every time they had the ball in the first spell their
talents were rarely sighted after the break when the Blues forwards gave
Coach John Kirwan will also have concerns that the Blues
defence leaked five tries against a Rebels side that sits fourth from
the bottom of the ladder and well out of championship contention.
Ali Williams described the win as "ugly" with the Blues performance
sliding downhill after a four-try burst in the opening 25 minutes.
were lucky to get away with it. Today we learned a valuable lesson that
we can't just rest and cruise through this," Williams said.
be honest we let ourselves down. A bit of individual brilliance by a few
individuals but as a team I think we need to look hard at ourselves."
Rebels have now lost their last five games by seven points or less,
leaving captain Higginbotham to rue the fact they had again come up just
In the second half against the Blues, when their forward
began to dominate possession, the Rebels took control apart from a brief
spell 10 minutes from the end when Ranger scored the match-winning
"That's our problem, we keep letting teams in with easy tries," Higginbotham said.
played some great, attacking football. A couple of minor errors in
defence and we'll fix that and then we'll be a side that will be tough
It was not a good match for the kickers. James O'Connor
missed the posts with all three of his attempts before he left the field
with a chest injury and fullback Woodward was astray with his first two
shots at goal.
Blues marksman Chris Noakes only found the uprights twice from five conversion attempts and he also missed an early penalty.Teams:Blues:
15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (captain), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry
Substitutes: 16 Gafatasi Su'a, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Ronald Raaymakers, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Lolagi VisiniaRebels:
15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachie Mitchell, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Nic Henderson
Substitutes: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Angus Roberts, 22 Bryce Hegarty