Melbourne - Rising star Rieko Ioane scored a hat-trick of tries as the Blues demolished the Rebels 56-18 to launch the new Super
Rugby season in Melbourne on Thursday.
The Blues blasted the hapless Rebels by seven tries to two
with flyhalf Ihaia West kicking six conversions and two penalties to pass 300
career points for the Aucklanders.
The game marked the Blues' first victory in three trips to
Melbourne and it was their biggest winning score in Australia.
It was an eye-catching performance from 19-year-old Ioane,
who made his Test debut for the All Blacks against Italy in Rome last November
and heralded the arrival of a new promising star in Super Rugby this season.
Ioane, who graduated to Super Rugby from New Zealand's
Sevens team, scored an intercept try, another beating three tackles and a third
backing up his brother Akira to take the final pass.
The Blues have often been their own worst enemy in the past
with their inconsistency, but under the coaching of All Black great Tana Umaga,
they were more clinical in their execution, outscoring the Rebels 31-3 in the
"It's something we've been working very hard on during
the pre-season to get those consistent performances and I thought we got that
tonight," skipper Jimmy Tupou said.
The Blues, who led 25-15 at half-time, were helped along in
the second half by the disjointed Rebels, who missed 20 tackles.
Nothing went right for the Rebels in their first home match
of the new season before a sparse crowd on a Thursday night scheduling
experiment in Melbourne.
They started brightly but lost skipper Nic Stirzaker after
he failed a concussion test from a head knock, not long after scoring the
Rebels' first try in the seventh minute.
Stirzaker joined a growing list of sidelined stars including
National Rugby League recruit, winger Marika Koroibete, and Wallabies Sean
McMahon, Sefa Naivalu, James Hanson and Toby Smith.
The Rebels also lost experienced centre Mitch Inman, forcing
a late backline reshuffle.
The Blues will test their early season promise against the Chiefs in Hamilton next week, while the Rebels are away to the
defending champion Hurricanes in Wellington.
Tries: Nic Stirzaker, Jackson Garden-Bachop
Penalties: Reece Hodge (2)
Tries: Pauliasi Manu, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane (3), Augustine Pulu, Melani Nanai
Conversions: Ihaia West (6)
Penalties: West (2), Piers Francis
15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Jonah Placid, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau
Substitutes: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Ben Volavola
15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Jimmy Tupou (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 George Moala, 23 Rene Ranger