Blues lift late to beat the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth
The Blues win their first away game in almost two years, defeating the Southern Kings 34-18 in Port Elizabeth.
The Blues’ long Super Rugby wait is over.
Winless away from home since 2014, the New Zealand Conference battlers beat the Southern Kings 34-18 in Port Elizabeth on Sunday morning (NZT). It was hardly a convincing victory for the Blues, but with just two wins and draw in their previous 27 trips out of Auckland, they won’t be quibbling.
It had appeared as if the Kings might be on the cusp of just their second victory of the season when they trailed just 22-18 with 20 minutes remaining. But the Blues deserve credit for regaining the momentum and when wing Tevita Li scored a try in stoppage time, they’d earned a bonus point to boot.
Blues wing Melani Nanai was too elusive for the Kings defence.
The Kings had started promisingly and led 10-5 after 15 minutes.
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First five-eighth Elgar Watts kicked things off with a penalty, before Blues captain James Parsons rumbled over from a lineout to put the visitors 5-3 up. But the Kings’ response was instant as halfback James Hall planted the ball on the goalpost padding to leave Watts an easy conversion.
Enter Blues wing Melani Nanai. Into the side for the equally elusive Rieko Ioane, Nanai ran in a brace of first-half tries from lineouts.
The first, in the 25th-minute, saw him drift in from the blindside wing and almost burst through the tail of a Blues lineout on the Kings’ 22. Nanai took the ball at first-receiver that time, which was the only difference when he scorched in again four minutes later.
Second time around halfback Bryn Hall found Ihaia West with his pass from the lineout, where Nanai immediately hit a short ball off the first five-eighth’s left shoulder. West’s conversion made it 19-10 and it seemed as if the Kings might fold up their tent.
Instead, they gathered themselves and probably had the better of the scoreless 10 minutes until halftime.
The Blues added to their lead with a penalty immediately after the break but, again, the Kings were not cowed. They soon camped themselves in the Blues’ half, where they weren’t interested in taking shots for goal. Just like the Blues in the first spell, the plan was kick for touch and try to score a try.
That attacking intent was rewarded in the 54th minute when hooker Edgar Marutlulle drove over from close range to make it 22-15. Sadly for the Kings, Watts was astray with his conversion.
All the same, the match was set up for an interesting conclusion. Particularly given neither side was accustomed to going on and winning games.
Fullback Jurgen Visser briefly relieved Watts of the kicking duties, to belt a penalty over from halfway to narrow advantage to 22-18 with 20 minutes to go.
The Kings continued to dominate but it was the Blues who scored next, with a converted try to reserve halfback Billy Guyton. There was some luck about given the Blues had earlier spurned a kick at goal, only for the Kings to turn over the attempted lineout drive.
It was then the Kings’ put-in to a scrum, which they had the better of, only for a stray boot to send the ball in the direction of Guyton who scurried in under the bar. At 29-18, even the Blues couldn’t lose and Li added finally wrapped things up in the 84th minute.
Blues 34 (Melani Nanai 2, James Parsons, Billy Guyton, Tevita Li tries; Ihaia West 3 con, pen) Southern Kings 18 (James Hall, Edgar Marutlulle tries; Elgar Watts pen, con, Jurgen Visser pen). HT: 19-10.
– Dominion Post
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