Super Rugby: Auckland Blues race five past Queensland Reds in 44-14 win at Eden Park
Last Updated: 02/05/14 10:50am
The Blues produced a thrilling performance, combining pace and power, as they raced to a 44-14 bonus-point victory over the Reds at Eden Park.
A week after playing a pivotal role in the Blues' 21-13 victory against the Waratahs, All Black centre Ma'a Nonu continued to show signs of his imperious best by setting up three tries for the Auckland-based franchise.
Jackson Willison got the Blues moving with the first try of the night, before Lolagi Visinia and Bryn Hall scored either side of half time as the hosts built a commanding lead.
Tom Donnelly claimed the bonus-point score before the hour and despite managing to pull back two tries, the Reds were condemned to a fourth successive defeat when Ihaia West put the seal on victory with a fifth try for the hosts.
Blues fly-half Simon Hickey fired the hosts in front in an undisciplined opening 20 minutes which saw 10 penalties conceded, five by each side.
Hickey successfully landed his two kicks on goal, while his opposite number, Quade Cooper, hooked both his attempts from the tee.
The Reds remained entrenched in their own half as they attempted to weather a period of sustained pressure, which ultimately ended in Willison claiming the opening try of the match.
Sir John Kirwan's side switched play from right to left before a miss-pass from Ma'a Nonu sent Visinia flying down the left flank and the winger made the perfect offload for Willison to fly over.
Hickey made light work of adding the extras, but scoring came at a cost for the Blues as Willison was forced off with a hamstring injury.
A yellow card for Reds prop James Slipper, who was lucky to remain on the field after up-ending Peter Saili, opened the door for a second Blues try on the cusp of half-time.
Nonu nudged a beautifully weighted grubber through the Reds defence which Visinia successfully touched down, before Hickey slotted the conversion to give the Blues a 20-0 lead at the break.
Charles Piutau sparked the Blues third as he fended off the Reds defence before allowing Nonu to break free and the tenacious centre found another precision offload to allow Hall to cross the whitewash.
The Blues made sure of the bonus point on 50 minutes as Donnelly completed an excellent team try.
Frank Haili's chip-and-chase down the right flank left the visitors on the back foot and the Blues winger's dynamic change of pace pierced the Reds' defence, leading to a simple touchdown for lock Donnelly.
Blues prop Tony Woodcock was sin-binned after being caught throwing a punch and the Reds immediately made their personnel advantage count as they claimed their first try of the match.
Ben Daley was the man in possession as the Reds drove a maul over the line and Cooper managed to cut the uprights for the first time with the conversion.
Richard Graham's side were enjoying a brief period of dominance and Reds captain James Horwill added a second try as he crashed over the line with 15 minutes to play.
However All Black Under-20 fly-half West, on as a replacement for Nonu, had the final say as he put the gloss on the Blues win by racing home from inside his own half after Piutau had intercepted then brilliantly offloaded.
Super Rugby 2014 Round 12
Queensland Reds prop James Slipper and Highlanders forward Brayden Mitchell both handed three-week bans.
The Bulls ended a four-match losing streak as they beat the Cheetahs 26-21 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
Stormers moved off the bottom of the Super Rugby table as they edged the Highlanders 29-28 at Newlands.