WELLINGTON – Jerome Kaino bade farewell to his home crowd on a high note Friday as the Auckland Blues downed the Queensland Reds 39-15, but it was the four yellow cards handed out during the game that became the centre of attention.
South African referee Egon Seconds dished out two cards against the Reds in the space of two minutes in the first half that proved to be the defining period of the game.
He then sent two Blues players off in the second half.
Long-time Blues and All Blacks enforcer Kaino was making his last appearance at Eden Park before heading to France at the end of the season to join Toulouse, and was handed the captaincy when Augustine Pulu failed a fitness test before the game.
Kaino started shakily, dropping the kick-off, before rallying to lead the Blues to their first home win since they beat the Reds a year ago.
The combative flanker, playing his 137th Super game, said he was glad to say goodbye with a win.
“This season has been tough. We've come close to it at times at home. but I'm stoked for our fans and especially the boys to get a result at home,” he said. “Maybe on reflection I'll look back and think about all the memories but tonight was an awesome result.”
Reds captain Scott Higginbotham, who paid tribute to Kaino as “a massive part of New Zealand rugby” felt the yellow cards impacted on the game.
“Two yellow cards to us early in the game, they got the jump on us. We ended up getting some payback with some yellows but it was too little too late.”
As befitting their status as 13th and 14th teams on a 15-team ladder, the Blues and Reds turned on an untidy spectacle.
They fumbled their way through the first 20 minutes, when the Reds with a dominant pack won penalties off the first three scrums and Jono Lance converted two of them into points.
The Blues replied with a Stephen Perofeta penalty and a try to Melani Nanai to lead 8-6 before Jordan Petaia (tip tackle) and Taniela Tupou (no arms tackle) were sent off in quick succession.
While they were cooling their heels, the Blues ran up 13 points from a Perofeta penalty and tries to Rieko Ioane and hooker Matt Moulds to open a 21-6 lead.
Perofeta stretched the lead to 31-6 with a penalty, a try and a conversion early in the second half before the Reds came back into the game with their first try to Duncan Paia'aua.
When Blues lock Matiaha Martin and replacement prop Sione Mafileo were shown yellow cards, Alex Mafi scored for the Reds before the Blues finished off with a Bryn Gatland penalty and a try to Caleb Clarke.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)