The Rebels and the Blues opened the 2017 Super Rugby season, with an easy Blues win.
Both teams had something to prove; The Rebels wanted to stamp its authority in an uncertain Australian conference, the blues want a return to the glory days of early 2000. however tonight, it would be the New Zealand fans who would go home smiling after a dominant second half.
The first game is often a game of its own and big conclusions shall not be drawn out it. Bu,t clearly the Rebels should go back to the drawing board, with a lot of homework to do after a 38 points hiding.
They kept pace for most of the first half, but after the break, they were annihilated. Multiple injuries to key players: McMahon, Naivalu, Koroibete, and at the last minute Inman, plus losing their captain 14 minutes into the game, should not be used an excuse to justify a terrible second half.
The Rebels should have a closer look to their game plan; too many possessions kicked away with no real opportunities, continue to plague them. The choice to play Mafi and Ried near the wing on attacking didn’t work; the powerful forwards were often away from the play, and didn’t contribute as expected.
Next week the Rebels will play the reigning champions Hurricanes. ’nuff said.
The game was in the balance until the dying minutes of the first half , with Rieko Ioane’s try giving the Blues a 10 point advantage at the break. In the second half, there was only one team on the pitch – the Blues. Tana Umaga’s team ran away to win, led by an impressive Ihaia West, and an hat-trick from Ioane.
Nic Stirzaker’s 50th cap was a short-lived affair He had glimpses of good form, and managed to score a try in the 14 minutes. However, suffered a concussion, and was forced from the field for the remainder of the match
After 5 minutes where the Blues tried without success to break the Rebels’ line, the Auckland’s outfit scored a penalty of the boot of West.
The visitor’s lead was very short, with the Rebels scoring just one minute after the penalty kick. A nice break from Japanese internationals Mafi opened up the field for Jack Maddocks, who cut toward the centre, drew two defenders into the tackle and offloaded to the running Nic Stirzaker, who threw a dummy and scored the try.
Unfortunately, the Rebels captain was forced out the field soon after with a suspected concussion.
Ten minutes after Nicks’s Try, the Blues had a nice opportunity to go back on top. A beautiful combination between Rieko Ioane and Matt Duffie brought them after the line but the Rebels defence was able to hold up the ball and prevent the score. However, the 5m Scrum, Pauliasi Manu was too strong for the Rebels defenders, crashing over for the Try.
The Rebels made their way back into the visitors’ half and gained a penalty from a favourable position. Garden-Bachop hit the post, but on the subsequent kick, Jordy Reid blocked and Garden-Bachop was quick to redeem himself and scored his first try for the Rebels. The rookie flyhalf wasn’t able to convert his own try and missed another kick two minutes later.
The Blues were quick to regroup and thanks to a possible knock on not seen by international referee Angus Gardner, the Rebels were caught off-guard, allowing Blues winger Duffie to score untouched.
West extended the Blues lead seven minutes to the siren with a 35 meters penalty right in front of the posts.
The missed goals cost Garden-Bachop the kicking role. Reece Hodge was called to the kicking duties and slotted a penalty shortly after.
The Blues had the last word of the first stanza; Ioane was clever not to loose focus on a massive Rebels’ overlap on the left wing, kept the eyes on the ball and intercepted a lousy Ried’s pass to score the visitors’ third against the flow of play.
Rieko Ioane try decided the match
First half score: Rebels 15 – Blues 25
Hodge opened the second half with a penalty for the home team, but the Blues picked up from where they left with a Augustine Pulu try after a line out movement that caught the Rebels’ defence asleep.
A brilliant Ioane try at the 11th minute extended to Blues lead. The centre broke two tackles, and dodged another three Rebels’ backs, to cross the line with a powerful, awe inspiring run.
Ihaia West had a superb game for the Blues
The Rebels tried to get back, but a precise West kick started a race to the try line between Nanai and Meehan. The Blues’ winger won the foot racet to score try number six with 20 minutes to play.
In a game already won by the Blues, Ioane scored his third personal try. To pour more salt on their wounds the Rebels lost also Jonah Placid with an ankle injury.
Final score: Rebels 18 – Blues 56
The Wrap Up
The Blues had a dominant second half thanks to better execution and a more effective bench. Conceding seven tries at home is never a good sign, and the Rebels were left with too many questions to answer.
The Game Changer
Rieko Ioane try at the end of the first half cut the game in two. From a potential half time score of 15-18, the two teams went to the sheds with the visitors 10 points up. In the second half there was no coming back.
The G&GR MOTM
Ihaia West had a superb game for the Blues, he orchestrated his players with precise hand passes and kicks, never missing a bit.
Very few new names can be made after this game: Tom English and Jack Maddocks started the game pretty well, but faded quickly un the Rebel’s quagmire.
Score & Scorers
Rebels 18 (15)
Tries: Stirzaker 6′, Garden-Bachop 22′
Conversions: Garden-Bachop 1/2
Penalties: Garden-Bachop 0/2, Hodge
Blues 56 (25)
Tries: Manu 18′, Duffie 28′, Ioane 39′, 51′, 63′, Pulu 44′, Nanai 59′
Conversions: West 6/7
Penalties: West 2/2, Francis 1/1
Cards & citings
YC: Ranger 72′