Blues 35 (Angus Ta’avao, Ronald Raaymakers, Albert Nikoro, Francis Saili, Lolagi Visinia tries; Marty McKenzie 5 con) Reds 4 (Adam Wallace-Harrison 2, James Hanson, Radike Samo, Rod Davies, Liam Gill 2 tries; Quade Cooper 2 con, Mike Harris con)
The Blues’ young guns pushed a Wallaby-laden Reds outfit all the way in Toowoomba this evening before eventually succumbing to the 2011 Super Rugby Champions 41-35 in the opening pre-season game of the year.
It was always going to be a stern challenge for Sir John Kirwan’s new-look side, with 18 uncapped Blues players lining up against a Reds side boasting 11 Wallabies from 2012.
But the Blues showed plenty of endeavour as they really took it to their opponents in a 12 try thriller.
The Blues got off to a superb start as prop Angus Ta’avao crashed over from close range, before bruising lock Ronald Raaymakers crossed the whitewash to give the visitors a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
However the Reds stuck back, scoring three tries through Adam Wallace-Harrison, James Hanson and Radike Samo to take a slender 17-14 lead at half time.
The home side’s onslaught continued in the second half, with Wallace-Harrison bagging his second try of the evening while Quade Cooper combined with Rod Davies to open up a 29-14 lead.
Blues Wider Training Group wing Albert Nikoro made a big impression after coming on in the second stanza scoring a length of the field try, while Francis Saili also dotted down to put the visitors right back in contention at 28-29 heading into the final quarter.
The Reds’ Liam Gill and the Blues’ Lolagi Visinia traded tries as the game came down to a nail-biting finish with just one point separating the two teams heading into the final 10 minutes.
However Gill scored the match winning try with two minutes remaining to give the home side a 41-35 victory.
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan would have been pleased with the first hit-out by his new-look side missing heavyweights Ali Williams, Charlie Faumuina, Rene Ranger, Piri Weepu and Charles Piutau, however there will be plenty to work on ahead of their second pre-season trial.
The Blues now head north to Whangarei to take on the Waratahs in their second pre-season match at Toll Stadium on Saturday.