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Blues edge Reds in Samoan Super Rugby win

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/06/2017

The Blues have timed their run superbly to edge the Reds 34-29 in the first-ever Super Rugby match in Apia, Samoa, on Friday.

The Kiwis ran in five tries to three, but had to work right to the final whistle in a match where the lead changed hands regularly.

The Blues started with a hiss and a roar, winning a rare tighthead before Rene Ranger sliced through some indifferent Reds defence to touch down in his first game since early March.

Rieko Ioane added the Blues' second just three minutes later, flanker Kara Pryor making a storming run down the left before offloading for Ranger to draw the defence and send Ioane clear.

Trailing 12-0 after 10 minutes, the Reds suffered a further blow with the loss of centre and skipper Samu Kerevi with an ankle injury.

But they managed to fight back to find both field position and momentum, a well-organised rolling maul twice coming up short before prop Taniela Tupou proved unstoppable from close range on the third attempt.

Poor Reds defence at the lineout gifted the Blues their third try as the half-hour mark neared, Pryor powering over from the lineout drive to extend the Aucklanders lead to 17-5.

The Reds' strength on the lineout drive paid dividends five minutes later, hooker Andrew Ready scoring in his first game for nearly two months, but Blues first-five Piers Francis banged over a 45m penalty to extend the lead to 20-12 at half-time.

The Reds lost lock and Wallabies bolter Lukhan Tui soon after the restart to a shoulder injury, but managed to pile on 10 unanswered points in the first 20 minutes of the second spell.

A Quade Cooper penalty narrowed the gap, then replacement flanker Adam Korczyk crashed over from the pick and go to give the Reds the lead.

The Blues struggled to cut down their handling errors, particularly at the breakdown, but hit back with a superb counterattacking surge down the right wing which was finished off by lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.

The try triggered a hectic closing 20 minutes, Tupou claiming his second try of the match from a charge down as the Reds hit the front again at 29-27.

With five minutes remaining, replacement No.10 Stephen Perofeta gave the Blues the final say, finishing off another superb counterattack set up by a mesmerising run from fullback Melani Nanai down the left touch.

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