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McAlister at concert pitch

Friday, April 14, 2006    Sportal.co.nz    

Who scored and when? - Check out the Blues v Western Force live scoring sheet.

It was the breakout that had long been threatened and it was no coincidence that it was first five-eighths McAlister who inspired the revival.

He took control from the outset, setting what had always been a potentially potent backline in full cry, in one of the best Blues
displays of the Rebel Sport Super 14 competition.

It will be a welcome boost to confidence on the eve of their South African leg of the competition. However, it is likely the Blues will be without flanker Troy Flavell who left the field with a serious shoulder injury.

And hat-trick scorer second five-eighths Rua Tipoki could be in doubt after being cited in the incident which led to Force first five-eighths James Hilgendorf leaving the field with a head injury.

The Blues started with some deliberate rolling mauls which resulted in some early demands on the Western Force defences. But it wasn't until the Force was penalised for taking down a driving maul, after a lineout take by Flavell, that McAlister was able to put the first points on the board from the penalty goal.

One minute later, McAlister unleashed a classic burst of speed when running into a gap 40 metres out. He put in an after-burner and while taken in a tackle by Force fullback Cameron Shepherd short of the line, his momentum carried him over.

After 17 minutes, Shepherd kicked a penalty goal.

However, the Blues response was instantaneous. Wing Joe Rokocoko leapt high to take the re-start moved into space then looked back outside where centre Ben Atiga was in support to take the pass to crash over in the corner.

More McAlister magic resulted in a 23rd minute try for Tipoki. With the Blues pressuring the line, McAlister chipped the ball into acres of vacant ground on the goal-line and with the Force defence flat, the try was a formality.

Just before half-time another break almost created a chance for halfback John Senio, but he grounded the ball just short of the line.

Rokocoko was replaced at half-time by Doug Howlett, making his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury.

Six minutes into the second half, McAlister took a rebound from a Force passing movement and fed Howlett, who in-passed to Tipoki who was grounded just short of the line and after a lengthy look from the television match official a try was awarded.

Five minutes later Tipoki completed the hat-trick when unzipping his footwork to capitalise on another impressive Blues build-up with McAlister adding the conversion.

The tries kept coming and after 15 minutes wing Isakela Nacewa was unlucky to have a try over-ruled by the TMO when he looked to have kept body and soul clear of the sideline.

No.8 Scott Fava was a constant in the Force assaults, and while flanker Matt Hodgson proved combative he could make little headway against the home unit. Halfback Matt Henjak was busy but unable to spark his backline. Centre Josh Graham crashed and bashed all night but there was no way through for him.

Shepherd had better luck when following up replacement halfback Chris O'Young's kick into the box to score.

More McAlister work resulted in a last-minute try to Nacewa.

Scorers:

Blues 32 (Rua Tipoki (3), Luke McAlister, Ben Atiga, Isa Nacewa tries; McAlister 3 con, pen) Western Force 8 (Cameron Shepherd try, pen). HT: 20-3