Blues beat Western Force 30-17 in Super Rugby Pacific

March 26, 2023 GMT

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Giant winger Mark Telea produced another outstanding performance as the Auckland-based Blues beat the Western Force 30-17 Sunday in the last match of the fifth round of Super Rugby Pacific.

Telea scored a try and was a constant menace to the Force defense which generally was superb but at times outgunned.

The Blues chose this match to leave out several All Blacks including flyhalf Beauden Barrett, scrumhalf Finlay Christie and center Rieko Ioane and was fully stretched by a Force team which often was only a pass away from scoring.

The Force buckled the Blues’ defense when they kept the ball and attacked through phases but made crucial errors in the attacking third of field, dropped passes and that became costly in a match which was closer than the scoreline suggested.

“It’s a bit of a double edged sword,” Blues stand-in captain Harry Plummer said. “We knew the Force were going to bring it and they’re a very persistent team that you can’t switch off against. We saw that in the last 10 minutes. They played a lot of good rugby and it’s hard to play against.

“We got the win but it is a bit frustrating. We made errors which also crept in last week and we’re going to get stung on different days.”

The Blues led with early penalties from Stephen Perofeta but took 29 minutes to score the first try of the match through Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens to lead 11-0.

Prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi stretched the Blues lead to 18-0 but the Force hit back through captain Michael Wells whose try made the score 18-5 at halftime.

Telea scored in the eighth minute of the second half, then hooker Ricky Riccitelli to make the lead 30-10.

But the Force again finished strongly with a try to winger Toni Pulu in the 57th minute and another to Zach Kibirige which made the tally of tries 4-3 and denied the Blues a bonus point.

The Force defense was generally strong throughout the match, only beaten down at times and it’s attack was effective but often broke down in the late phases.

Scrumhalf Isaak Fines-Leileiwasa was a danger when he was introduced late in the match.


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