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Super Rugby Blues continue for Waratahs

NZN 6/05/2017 Darren Walton

New Zealand's worst remains a class above Australia's best after the Blues dealt the NSW Waratahs' finals hopes a hammer blow with a 40-33 Super Rugby triumph in Sydney.

A week after keeping Australia's conference-leading Brumbies tryless in Canberra, the Blues buried the Waratahs with a first-half blitz at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

The match was all but over after the Aucklanders led 26-0 at the break before the Waratahs mounted a spirited fightback to claim a precious bonus point at the death.

"Great fight, but not enough. Two different 40s there, which is quite frustrating," rued Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper.

Despite sitting last in the cut-throat New Zealand conference, the Blues extended the Kiwi dominance over Australian opposition to 17 wins from as many trans-Tasman encounters in 2017.

With a horror draw to come plus a bye and no opportunity to make inroads next week, the Waratahs are four competition points adrift of the Brumbies after suffering four straight home defeats for the first time in five years.

Israel Folau broke the longest tryscoring drought of his five-year Super Rugby career with a second-half double, but the superstar fullback's first strikes in seven games were too little too late for the Waratahs.

The damage was done in a dismal first half.

Starved of possession, the Waratahs wasted virtually any ball they had with fundamental errors.

They knocked on, conceded turnovers, gave away scrum penalties on their own feed, kicked out on the full or simply kicked the ball away despite only having it for barely 20 per cent of the half.

The Waratahs were also punished for their ill-discipline, with five-eighth Piers Francis nailing four penalty goals and also converting the Blues' both first-half tries.

The Waratahs spent much of the week working on their one-on-one defence but it didn't help Folau, Ned Hanigan or Tolu Latu as winger Reiko Ioane beat all three in a slashing 50-metre strike for the Blues' first five-pointer.

It was hard to know whether disgruntled fans were filing out of the ground or just to the bar after Blues lock Scott Scrafton strolled over a minute before halftime to give his side a huge head-start.

Folau crossed two minutes in to the second half before Latu briefly raised hopes of the Waratahs pulling off their greatest-ever comeback win.

Alas, Ioane's second of the night, quickly followed by another from his brother Akira in the 66th minute blew the Blues' lead back out to 40-12.

Late tries to Bernard Foley, Folau and prop Paddy Ryan after the siren secured the Waratahs' bonus point.

"(I'm) certainly really proud with the fight in the second half," said Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.

"There's no question, when we find ourselves in this situation, this team fights and that's a really excellent quality of this team.

"The disappointing aspect is we are giving up leads in those starts and that is terribly frustrating."

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