Sun, Mar 26, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Auckland, Otago maintain NZ form

AP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand

Auckland Blues player Piers Francis, right, is tackled by Northern Bulls players during their game at the QBE Stadium in Albany, New Zealand, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Winger Matt Duffie scored two of five second-half tries as the Auckland Blues overwhelmed the South Africa-based Bulls 38-14 in their Super Rugby match yesterday, while the Otago Highlanders came from behind to down the ACT Brumbies and keep New Zealand-based teams undefeated except in local derbies.

Duffie touched down twice within 10 minutes at the start of the second half as the Blues overcame a disorganized first half performance to win by six tries to two.

The match at Eden Park snapped the Blues’ three-game losing streak, but still left little doubt the Tana Umaga-coached team is the weakest of New Zealand’s five Super Rugby sides. The Blues have had three matches this season against New Zealand opponents and have lost them all.

The game turned in the Blues’ favor in the second half when they lost their structure. Without the need to build from set pieces, but instead to create play from Bulls’ turnovers, the Blues were far more effective and scored five tries after halftime.

“We were really happy with the first half, to be honest,” Blues captain James Parsons said. “We felt we really had them on the edge and we managed to keep our game going and got the rewards at the end.”

After a single first-half try scored after three minutes by scrumhalf Augustine Pulu, the Blues found themselves still on even terms at halftime, with the Bulls scoring through prop Lizo Gqoboka.

Duffie’s tries in the 45th and 54th minutes unleashed a torrent of scoring by the Blues in the second spell. Replacements Ihaia West and Matt Moulds and winger Melani Nanai also scored tries as the Blues opened a 38-7 lead before the Bulls scored a consolation try after the final hooter to scrumhalf Rudy Paige.

“I think in the first half we played a little more towards the way we wanted,” Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss said. “We held the ball, but still had to defend an awful lot.”

“The second half we just couldn’t build pressure, we just lost the ball after one or two phases in their territory and you can’t defend for 80 minutes against the Blues,” he said.

In Canberra, the Highlanders stayed patient against a fired-up Brumbies side before scoring a late try and staving off a ferocious assault on their line to eke out an 18-13 win.

Trailing for most of a match that made up for a lack of quality with plenty of commitment, replacement Highlanders prop Aki Seiuli barreled over under the posts in the 73rd minute for a converted try that proved to be the difference.

The Brumbies turned to their favorite attacking ploy, the driving maul off a line-out, in a frantic finale, but the visitors held firm on three occasions to either draw a penalty or force a turnover to keep their lead intact.

The Highlanders are the bottom team in the New Zealand Conference, while the Brumbies are atop the Australian Conference.

In Singapore, the Japan-based Sunwolves narrowly missed out on a rare win, losing 44-31 to the South Africa-based Stormers.

Additional reporting by Staff writer and Reuters

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