The Blues snapped a 16-month, 13-game losing streak away from home in emphatic fashion last night, thrashing the Western Force 40-14 to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
It was one of the finest performances in recent history by a Blues team who mixed thrilling enterprise in attack with gritty determination and resolve in defence to blow the Force off the park.
The resounding victory edges the Blues ahead of the Chiefs on points differential and leaves them in eighth spot on the ladder overall, just four points adrift of the top six with two remaining matches.
After a three week break from Super Rugby action with the International Test window, The Blues came out of the gates firing and it took them just 18 minutes to secure the four try bonus point.
There was little the Force could do to stop the onslaught as the Blues ran rampant at nib Stadium, opening the scoring in the sixth minute through livewire first five-eighths Ihaia West.
Charlie Faumuina did superbly to effect a turnover and halfback Bryn Hall was quick to see the space out wide, putting a crossfield kick over to George Moala’s wing as he then chipped ahead, the ball sitting up perfectly for the flying West to regather and dive over the whitewash to score.
After playing a hand in the first try, Faumuina then scored his own five pointer, showing superb strength following a Jerome Kaino carry to crash over the line from close range.
Steven Luatua was back in the starting XV after spending the last five games on the bench and he was eager to impress ñ and impress he certainly did. The 23-year-old blindside had his finest game of the season and it was his superb work at the breakdown which led to the Blues’ third try.
He did exceptionally to get over the tackled player and pilfer the ball, and as the Blues spun the ball wide, West straightened up the defence before passing to fullback Lolagi Visinia who had too much pace and beat two defenders on his way to the try line.
Ma’a Nonu then made light work of the Western Force backline, brushing off three defenders with ease to crash over the line and secure the four try bonus point with less than a quarter of the game gone.
But as thrilling as the Blues’ attack was, it was their defence that really impressed in the following 20 minutes. It could have been quite easy for the Blues to relax and concede points against a Force side desperate to hit back, but they defended their line resolutely ñ marshalled superbly by Jerome Kaino who manhandled the Force players and drove them backwards.
Ahead 26-0 at the break, Tom Donnelly was sent to the sin-bin early in the second half following the Blues’ repeated infringements but the one man deficit made little difference as the Blues scored through Luke Braid.
The Blues skipper showed tremendous strength to fight his way through three defenders and crash over the line to put the Blues comfortably ahead 33-0.
The Force managed to finally get on the scoreboard through Nathan Charles after 64 minutes before Pita Ahki nullified it eight minutes later, regathering a grubber from Francis Saili which fortuitously popped straight into Ahki’s path as he strolled over the line untouched.
However the home side scored a consolation try on fulltime to bring the final score to 44-14.
The Blues face a much sterner challenge from the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday and must win if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive.