The Auckland Blues put a disruptive build-up behind them to topple the NSW Waratahs 21-13 in their Super 15 clash yesterday, maintaining their unbeaten home record at Eden Park.
At the end of a week in which the focus has been on the sudden return to rugby league of their high-profile code-hopper Benji Marshall, the Blues outscored the Sydneysiders two tries to one.
However, in a game that did not reach great heights, the Blues struggled throughout to hold the ascendency, while the Waratahs had ample possession, but suffered from multiple handling errors.
It was the Blues’ fourth win of the season, all of them at Eden Park, and ended a two-match losing streak after they were downed by the Wellington Hurricanes and ACT Brumbies in recent weeks.
“The boys really know how to play well at home. We were at a bit of a low point after losing those two games, but we had to win this one and we did,” captain Luke Braid said.
The win lifted the Blues ahead of the Highlanders in the New Zealand conference.
The Waratahs, with five wins, remain second on the Australian ladder, one point ahead of the Western Force, who play the Northern Bulls today.
The Waratahs produced the pressure in the first half, but a succession of handling errors meant it was the Blues that produced the points, turning with an 8-3 lead.
A penalty to Simon Hickey was followed by a try to Lolagi Visinia, who won the ball for the Blues when he outleaped Michael Foley to field a high kick and then finished the move by fielding a pass from Ma’a Nonu to score in the corner.
The only reward for the Waratahs in the first 40 minutes was a Foley penalty after missing two close flirtations with the line.
In the opening minute Adam Ashley-Cooper sliced through the Blues defense, only for Rob Horne to be tackled just short of the line.
Horne later dotted down by the posts, only to be brought back 55m for a knock-on.
The Blues stretched their lead to 18-3 early in the second half with a second Hickey penalty and a converted try to Francis Saili.
Jacques Potgieter eventually scored for the Waratahs at the end of a sustained build-up, with Foley adding the conversion and a second penalty to close the gap to 18-13 before a third Hickey penalty sealed the outcome.