Blues run Cheetahs ragged

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Lynn McConnell     12 May 2017     Getty Images

It was a rare third consecutive win for the Blues in the modern era and with their bonus point try they kept themselves in the hunt for a prospective play-offs place.

The Blues head off to South Africa to play the Stormers next week knowing lock Patrick Tuipulotu is back in good touch while wing Declan O'Donnell had a strong start on the wing for the side. It increases the selection options in a way that hasn't always been possible for coach Tana Umaga.

Prop Charlie Faumuina had an impressive showing which was just as well as Pauliasi Manu left early with a calf injury allowing Ofa Tu'ungafasi a long spell of play which he used to good effect.

It was a highly mobile game, from both sides, but the superior strike power of the home side, demonstrated by the rampant Ioane brothers, Rieko two tries and Akira one, and fullback Melani Nanai who relished a starting berth again.

The try scoring started at pace, the Cheetahs predictably using the lineout drive to effect to create tries to centre Francois Venter in the fourth minute and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld in the 14th minute.

The Blues did what they know best by running the ball in the 10th minute with Nanai down the blindside to slip a pass to Rieko Ioane and then after their own version of a penalty kick to the corner, the Blues worked a lineout move with Blake Gibson going through the middle, then ruck ball being developed through lock Scott Scrafton and No.8 Steven Luatua before Scrafton went over after 17 minutes.

It was when the Blues lifted their attack a couple of gears around the 20th minute, after a lineout take in the Cheetahs 22m area by Akira Ioane that the Blues looked their most efficient. The ball was moved through the line, cleared quickly from rucks and when it came back across field it was Akira Ioane who finished it off with a clean centre's break.

Another lineout after a penalty, this time for a high tackle on first five-eighths Piers Francis saw the ball moved wide then from the breakdown blindside alley was employed again with Faumuina picking up a low pass with effect before passing out to Scrafton on the sideline. His in-pass found Tuipulotu and he cleared out for the goal-line to score Auckland's fourth.

Tuipulotu's charge off a lineout drive six minutes into the second half provided the impetus for another Faumuina set-up, courtesy of a back of the hand pass which Luatua utilised to drive over for a try.

Luatua made a strong burst onto the ball from a midfield breakdown and an attempted pass to Tuipulotu fell to halfback Augustine Pulu who was unblocked on his run to the line.

Nanai made the most of the re-start to make two runs before the ball was again taken down the blindside with Scrafton and centre George Moala getting the ball to Akira Ioane. He had Rieko outside him when the defence came across and Rieko was able to cut back inside for his second after 52 minutes.

Replacement hooker Elandre Huggett capitalised two driving lineout mauls to score in the 56th and 76th minutes but it was all irrelevant in the overall scheme of things and was notable for being the only way the Cheetahs looked like scoring.

Scorers: Blues 50 (Rieko Ioane 2, Scott Scrafton, Akira Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu, Steve Luatua, Augustine Pulu, Melani Nanai tries: Piers Francis 2 con; Ihaia West 3 con ) Cheetahs 32 (Francois Venter, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Elandre Huggett 2 tries; Fred Zeilinga 3 con, 2 pen). HT: 24-18