The Queensland Reds have suffered a 53-26 loss to the Blues in Round 13 of Super Rugby Pacific at Eden Park in Auckland.
The Blues outscored the Reds eight-tries-to-four with Bryce Heem, Soane Vikena, Caleb Clarke and Jock Campbell all scoring doubles for their respective sides, while Blues fullback Stephen Perofeta slotted five conversions and a penalty, as well as scoring a try of his own, to amass 18 individual points.
Perofeta opened the scoring in the seventh minute of the match with a penalty, before Heem and Clarke crossed for back-to-back tries to give the home side an early 17-nil lead before the 20-minute mark.
Suliasi Vunivalu scored the Reds first try of the match in the 22nd minute. A series of penalties took the Reds into the Blues 22m, and after a number of hit ups, Tate McDermott darted from the base of the ruck and passed back inside to a rampaging Vunivalu who burst through the defence and dotted down. O’Connor slotted the conversion to narrow the margin to 17-7.
The Reds lost Hunter Paisami to injury in the 30th minute of the match, seeing Hamish Stewart come off the bench.
Heem, who also came off the bench early in the first half, scored the second of his two tries in the 32nd minute, giving the Blues a 22-7 lead.
The Reds lost their second player to injury before half-time, with Albert Anae leaving the field in the 35th minute, seeing Matt Faessler come on at hooker.
Lock Ryan Smith scored his second try in as many weeks in the 39th minute off the back of a pick-and-drive effort, O’Connor added the extras to narrow the margin to 22-14 before the teams headed into the sheds at half-time.
With the Reds only eight points behind the Blues as the second-half resumed, the home-side came out and dominated proceedings, with Caleb Clarke and Beauden Barrett both crossing for tries before the 45th minute.
Perofeta scored a try of his own, which he converted, in the 57th minute, giving the home side a 39-14 lead.
The Reds, remaining in the fight, worked their way back into the Blues half through some enterprising offloads and support play, which led to O’Connor putting Campbell over for his first try in the 63rd minute. O’Connor missed the conversion leaving the score at 39-19.
Vikena was next to score for the Blues, crossing for his first try in the 68th minute, with the reserve hooker the benefit of a driving maul try. Perofeta slotted the conversion to extend the Blues lead to 46-19.
Campbell answered back, crossing for his second try of the night in the 71st minute, with the backline combining for a try which started 40 metres from the Blues line.
Off the back of a scrum, Campbell had three touches in the passage of play, first slotting into first receiver before passing to O’Connor who put Flook through a gap, Flook then offloaded to Campbell who passed the ball to Vunivalu on the wing, who stepped back inside the Blues defence to offload to Campbell, who finished the move and scored the try. O’Connor added the extras to narrow the margin to 46-26.
Vikena would have the final say of the match, scoring his second try in the same fashion as the first off the back of a rolling maul. Perofeta slotted the conversion to secure the 53-26 win for the Blues.
The Reds return home next week for their Round 14 match against Moana Pasifika at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, 20 May – which will see Queensland Rugby Union celebrate their annual Indigenous Round.