Class edge shows as Blues beat Force

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

A valiant performance marred by defensive errors has seen the Force fall to a 24-15 loss to the Blues at Eden Park this afternoon.

The Force were thereabouts throughout the 80 minutes and even controlled opening quarter but a handful of Blues line breaks were turned into the points that proved the difference.

Gone were the Force of last Friday, who failed to put any imprint on the game due to a continual lack of defensive line speed and gain line runs, as the visitors started the better of the two teams.

The Force dominated territory and possession for the opening 25 minutes, grinding their way to Richie Arnold's first Super Rugby try in his first Super Rugby start after 20 minutes.Marcel Brache was among the Force's best this afternoon. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile they controlled proceedings, there was little of the much talked about attacking flair that coach Dave Wessels has tried to implement.

The Blues slowly started to turn the tide immediately after Arnold's try and were gifted a one-man advantage when Isi Naisarani was sent to the bin for a pair of cynical penalties in the Force half.

They immediately made the Force pay, putting on 12 points in the 10 minutes Naisarani spent on the sidelines.

Akira Ioane crossed for a rolling maul try before George Moala carved the Force defensive line up and put Matt Duffie away for a try as the half-time siren rung out around Eden Park.Piers Francis has impressed in place of Ihaia West. Photo: Getty ImagesThe second-half took some time to get going but the Blues scored a pair of dazzling tries to seal the result.Rieko Ioane matched his brother's effort at the 64 minute mark, breaking the line before following up to receive the final pass to score.

Michael Collins scored a 70 metre effort of his own nine minutes later, as the Force's defensive line parted like the Red Sea.

Dane Haylett-Petty scored a consolation try after Matt Philip showed a surprisingly good right foot step to split the line but it was not enough to concern the Blues, who stay in touch with the remainder of the New Zealand Conference after their third win of the season.

Halfback Ryan Louwrens went off in the 10th minute with a knee injury but was walking without aid after the game and coach Dave Wessels was optimistic about his prognosis after the game.

Wessels said he felt the side made progress in Auckland, after a 45-17 loss to the Crusaders in their first week in New Zealand.

"I thought our attacking game was good tonight and I thought while our defence was poor against the Crusaders, I thought we made a significant improvement on that tonight," he told RUGBY.com.au.

"The Blues only scored long range tries off our errors when we were trying to fire some shots and from time to time that's going to happen, particularly against the a really good team like the Blues. 

"There were times of the game where we needed to either consolidate or turn the tempo up of the game and there were moments that we missed to be able to really take the game by the scruff of the neck.

"The Kiwi teams know how to win and they've been doing it for a long time and in those moments they get those small decisions right."

The Force are hoping to welcome back skipper Ben McCalman for next week's clash with the Kings, though lock Adam Coleman will likely wait until after their round eight bye to make his return from a calf injury.

RESULT

Blues 24

Tries: A Ioane, R Ioane, Duffie, Collins

Cons: Francis 2 West

Pens:

Force 15

Tries: Arnold, Haylett-Petty

Cons:

Pens: Lance, Prior

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