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Blues dash Waratahs' playoff hopes

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/07/2016

The Blues have dashed any hopes the Waratahs had of making the Super Rugby playoffs with a patchy 34-28 win at Eden Park.

The Waratahs desperately needed a bonus point win to have any chance of topping the Australian conference and making next week's quarter-finals, but came up against a Blues team high on confidence after dismantling the Brumbies 40-15 last week.

Attempting to break a three-year drought at Eden Park, the Waratahs played catch-up rugby for most of the night, conceding too many turnovers and struggling to build phases and momentum.

They started well enough, dominating possession and territory early on with only the odd handling error in greasy conditions.

Camped on the Blues line, the Waratahs won a series of scrum penalties culminating in a 22nd minute penalty try to take an early 7-0 lead.

The Blues hit back three minutes later, Patrick Tuipulotu latching on to a Tevita Li offload to power over in the corner.

A second penalty try followed soon after, referee Mike Fraser ruling the Waratahs had collapsed the maul as the Blues drove for the line from an attacking lineout.

Desperate defence right on halftime meant the Blues took a 12-7 lead into the break, but their scrummaging woes continued after the restart.

Fraser awarded a third penalty try after five minutes as the Waratahs front row bored in and Blues tighthead Ofa Tu'ungafasi popped up again.

With the Waratahs 14-12 ahead, Blues coach Tana Umaga finally lost patience, bringing on All Blacks front-rower Charlie Faumuina to provide some much-needed impact from the bench.

The Blues continued to see-saw their way through the game, second-five Piers Francis darting through for a sharp try before the Waratahs hit back at the 60-minute mark.

Folau ghosted past the scrambling Blues defence, Bernard Foley nailed the conversion and the visitors trailed by one with 20 minutes remaining.

There were still plenty of tries to come. Blues fullback Melani Nanai ran onto a fortuitous bounce from Ihaia West's grubber kick, then former Blues prop Angus Ta'avao bullocked his way over to give the Tahs a chance at 29-28 down with eight minutes remaining.

But George Moala cruised across with less than three minutes left to wrap up the Blues' eighth win of the season.

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