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Blues make statement in season opener

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Thursday, February 23, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

After quelling a fast start from the Rebels, the Blues got better as the game wore on to run in seven tries in the bonus point win. 19-year-old centre Rieko Ioane was dangerous on attack and defence and leapt to the top of the Super Rugby try scoring chart with a classy hat-trick.

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The Melbourne Rebels have won their last four season opening clashes and looked like they were heading for another after a high octane opening stanza. Inspired by Captain Nic Stirzaker, the Rebels forced the Blues into a number of errors before Stirzaker crossed from a classy long range team effort. Soon after, the Rebels quick line speed proved deadly as an Ihaia West clearance was charged down to gift Jackson Garden-Bachop his first Super Rugby try. In a massive blow to the Rebels, Stirzaker failed a concussion test at the 20 minute mark and was unable to return to the field.

The Rebels lost direction with their skipper off the field and the Blues wasted no time taking control. New Blues recruit Augustine Pulu sparked the Blues comeback by swinging the attack from one side to the other before Rieko Ioane set up former Melbourne Storm star Matt Duffie to score and take a 15-12 lead. The teams traded penalties late in the half before Rieko Ioane showed his class again with a well-taken intercept to make it 25-15 at halftime.

Halfback Augustine Pulu backed up the hype of his signing for the Blues by scoring a spectacular individual try early in the second half. Catching the Rebels defence napping, Pulu scorched his way to the try line from a line out on halfway.

At 32-18 down, the Rebels needed to strike next to stay in the contest but Rieko Ioane virtually closed out the game with another impressive individual effort. Ioane carved straight through the Rebels midfield before having too much pace for the cover defence to score.

The Rebels continued to show heart in defence, but the Blues were simply too good in running in a third try to Ioane and another to wing Melani Nanai to secure the 56-18 victory.
It was a fantastic all round effort by the Blues with Rieko Ioane deserving of his hatrick and Ihaia West atoning for his early charge down by bagging an 18 point haul. It also brought up 300 career points for the Blues by West.

The Blues have struggled to win away from home in recent seasons, but this result – their biggest win ever in Australia – should shut down any of those concerns.

Blues captain Jimmy Tupou said: “Our backs had a bit of confidence and got some time with the ball so it was good to see the boys finish off some good tries. We have been working hard in the preseason (to be more consistent) and I felt like we showed that tonight.”

SCORERS:

Rebels 18 (Nic Stirzaker try, Jackson Garden-Bachop try, con, Reece Hodge 2 pen) Blues 56 (Rieko Ioane 3, Pauliasi Manu, Matt Duffie, Augustine Pulu, Melani Nanai tries, Ihaia West 2 pen, 6 con, Piers Francis pen)
HT: 15-25