Blues beat Fijian Drua, Hurricanes down Reds in Super Rugby
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Winger A.J. Lam scored two tries as the Auckland-based Blues overcame a stern challenge from the Fijian Drua to win 35-18 in the second trans-Tasman match Saturday in Super Rugby Pacific.
The Drua are second-to-last in the 12-team table but had an overwhelming share of possession and outplayed the first-place Blues physically and at the breakdown.
On several occasions the Drua opened up the Blues’ defense and dwelled in the Blues’ territory for long periods but weren’t always able to finish their opportunities.
The Blues were more clinical in comparison, showing more opportunism and scoring a try in each half from intercepts. Rieko Ioane’s intercept try in the 51st minute helped the Blues expand a tenuous 21-13 lead.
The Drua scored through powerful winger Onisi Ratave but Lam scored his second try from a lineout to seal an unconvincing win.
The Blues ended the match desperately defending their own goal line to prevent a try that would have cost them a vital bonus point.
“We talked about it and we knew we had to lift our preparation for this match,” Drua captain Meli Derenalagi said. “The Blues are the top team from the New Zealand side so we knew they would come hard so we lifted to a higher level so we can compete with them.
“We won’t rest here. We’ll try to come out again next week and be more competitive.”
In a late match, the Wellington-based Hurricanes overcame an early 17-0 deficit to beat the Queensland Reds 30-17 and make it three wins in three matches for New Zealand teams so far this weekend in Melbourne.
The Reds had tries from center Hamish Stewart and flanker Fraser McReight after 30 minutes but then didn’t score another point.
The Hurricanes struggled with discipline early, incurring a 9-2 penalty count and both center Bailyn Sullivan and prop Pouri Rakete-Stones were shown yellow cards for dangerous tackles.
Sullivan scored two tries for the Hurricanes.
On Sunday, the Highlanders play the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies and the Crusaders, based in Christchurch, take on the hometown Melbourne Rebels to conclude the 10th round.
Earlier, the Fijiana Drua beat five-time defending champions the New South Wales Waratahs 32-26 to win the Super W women’s title and finish unbeaten in their inaugural season.
Winger Vitalina Naikore scored three tries including the first and last for Fijiana in a match of repeated lead changes, clinching their win in the 74th minute.
The Fijiana Drua beat New South Wales 29-10 during the regular season, inflicting the Waratahs’ first defeat in 20 matches over five seasons. They repeated the achievement Saturday in a match that was extraordinary theater for women’s rugby in Australia.
When Kolora Lomani, running at full pace, caught a cross kick from Merewalesi Rokouono and scored in the 31st minute, the Fijiana led 17-5. But the Waratahs rallied with three tries to Natalie Delamere to seize the lead 19-17 just after halftime.
Naikore’s second try put the Drua in front at 22-19, but the Waraths reclaimed the lead on replacement Eva Karpani’s try in the 61st minute.
The lead lasted until the 71st minute when Timaima Ravisa dashed 50 meters along the right-hand touchline for the go-ahead try. Naikore, named Player of the Match, sealed the win with her hat-trick try.
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