Match Centre: Blues 31-21 Western Force

Otere Black kicked 11 points
Otere Black kicked 11 points
©Steve Haag

Blues 31-21 Force, Eden Park

Auckland Blues managed to hold off a second half fightback from Western Force as they went on to register a 31-21 win in the fifth round of Super Rugby Trans Tasman at Eden Park.

The win meant Blues have climbed back to the top place in the table and will face Highlanders in the final on 19th June with Crusaders missing out narrowly due to inferior point difference.

Blues got off to a terrific start with Mark Telea providing a perfect build up for Hoskins Sotutu, who raced on the left side to touched down in the 10th minute and Otere Black kicked the conversion.

The home side doubled their tally in the 28th minute after Zarn Sullivan made a long pass for Telea to crossover and Black improved making it 14-0.

The New Zealand side further extended their domination with Rieko Ioane stealing the ball at line out to send Dalton Papalii over the line and just before the break they got their fourth try with Sotutu completing his second. Black added both the conversions as the opening half ended with a 28-0 lead for Blues.

Force started the second half with a stronger intent as Feleti Kaitu'u touched down at the back of a strong maul in the 48th minute and eight minutes later Tevita Kuridrani crashed over in the left corner. Ian Prior kicked the conversions on both the occasions as the scoreline became 28-14.

Black with his maiden penalty goal stretched Blues' lead to 17 points but they were forced to play with a player short in the final 10 minutes as replacement Ray Niuia was sin-binned for a foul play but all Force could manage was a try from Rob Kearney that came after quick work from Domingo Miotti allowing the hosts to seal a 10-point victory and a berth in the final of the competition.

Team line up:

Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.

Reserves: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam.

Western Force: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ollie Callan, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu'u, 1 Tom Robertson.

Reserves: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Rob Kearney.