Perth, Australia – A stunning opening assault from the Auckland Blues powered them to a 40-14 win over the Western Force in their Super 15 clash in Perth on Saturday night.
The Blues produced some of their best rugby of the season in the opening 20 minutes to shock the Force, who were desperate to win to keep their finals hopes on track.
However, it was the visitors that made all the play from the outset to keep their own slim playoff hopes alive and turn around their poor away form, storming to a match-winning 26-0 lead on the back of four tries in the first 18 minutes of play.
The carnage started in just the fourth minute, when Ihaia West took advantage of a great bounce from a chip kick and ran in the opening try.
West then backed the try with a great conversion to give the Blues the perfect start.
The Force haven't beaten the Blues since 2008 and the New Zealanders doubled their lead in the ninth minute, when Charlie Faumina stormed over for a try and West again converted.
Alarm bells were sounding for the Force, who have been one of the surprise packets of the season, and they only got louder when the Blues crossed again just three minutes later, this time through the pace of Lolagi Visinia after some impressive ball movement.
Although West missed the conversion, it didn't hurt the Blues as Ma'a Nonu added a fourth try in the 18th minute.
The Force, missing the impact of Wallaby Nick Cummins who was a late withdrawal due to a neck injury, did create a couple of opportunities of their own in the first half.
However, they couldn't capitalise and they were never going to recover from a 26-0 deficit at the break.
A comeback was a forlorn hope and it became a mission impossible when the Blues pushed over under the posts in the 56th minute, with skipper Luke Braid becoming their fifth tryscorer.
Braid said the Blues were happy to notch a rare win away from home.
“Everyone knows we have struggled away for a year and a bit,” he said.
“It was good just to start well, we got into our rhythm.”
Force skipper Matt Hodgson said his team paid for their poor opening.
“We missed the start and you can't give a side like the Blues a four-try start,” he said. – Sapa-AFP