Blues beat Waratahs 21-13 in Super Rugby
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The Auckland-based Blues shrugged off one of the more troubled weeks in their history to beat the New South Wales Waratahs 21-13 in Super Rugby on Friday, keeping their slender playoffs hopes alive.
Young winger Lolagi Visinia scored one try and created another as the Blues, who started the match in 11th place, upset the fourth-placed Waratahs to improve to 4-5.
The win came after the midweek announcement that the Blues’ marquee signing, former New Zealand rugby league captain Benji Marshall, was leaving the club after failing to adapt to rugby union.
Jerome Kaino, on the blindside flank, and Ma’a Nonu, at inside center, led a stirring performance from a team facing off-field strife and potential elimination from the playoffs race.
The Blues are unbeaten at home this season but away losses to the Brumbies and Hurricanes in recent matches dropped them down the championship ladder.
“The boys really know how to play well at home,” Blues captain Luke Braid said. “We were probably at a low point losing those two games but we had to win this game and we did so.”
Visinia started and finished the Blues first try in the 22nd minute, capturing a high kick under pressure and linking with Nonu who provided the last, long pass from which the winger scored.
The first half was full of action from two of the most star-studded backlines in the tournament but scoring proved difficult and the Blues went to the break with an 8-3 lead.
Visinia also started the movement that led to the second Blues try; winning possession from a kick, handing off to Charlie Piutau who in turn fed Francis Saili who scored.
The Blues led 18-3 with that try but the Waratahs came back strongly with a try to lock Jacques Potgeiter, closing to 18-13 before the home side edged away with a late penalty from Simon Hickey.
Blues 21 (Lolagi Visinia, Francis Saili tries; Simon Hickey conversion, 3 penalties), New South Wales Waratahs 13 (Jacques Potgeiter try; Bernard Foley conversion, 2 penalties). HT: 8-3.