The Blues reverted to brutal ways with an ugly defeat of the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night, threatening records and seriously undermining credibility.
The Blues put an unsatisfactory two-week trip of Australia behind them by scoring 11 tries in their tenth consecutive victory this season. The hosts scored seven tries in the first half alone to take an insurmountable 47-14 lead, with All Blacks back-rower Akira Ioane terrorising the Rebels and scoring twice.
And they accomplished it without renowned All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett, who was rested, and instead relied on teenager Stephen Perofeta at 10. The Blues entered the match on top of the ladder with only one loss, while the Rebels were in eighth place with a hopeful eye on the finals.
However, with the result putting a significant damage on their points differential, it seems to be dead in the water.
Matt Philip, Melbourne’s stand-in captain, was heartbroken. They won 20-10 in their previous visit to Auckland in 2018.
“We came out with a lot of energy and I was proud of that but we weren’t good enough,” Philip told Stan Sport.
“I’m really disappointed because we were starting to build a lot of momentum in our season and I feel like we let a bit of that go tonight.”
In the end, the Blues fell three points short of their all-time high.
As New Zealand’s strongest team thrashed one of Australia’s weakest, predictions that Super Rugby Pacific’s competitiveness had shifted dramatically following last weekend’s close results may need to be reconsidered right now.
The Rebels scored the opening two tries before being made to look like a second-rate club side as the Blues displayed their offensive prowess throughout the field to score 66 consecutive points, until the visitors eventually contrived two late consolation tries after being kept scoreless for 70 minutes.
Much stiffer tests lie, but with the exception of Beauden Barrett, the Blues delivered a statement about their title credentials while emphasising the benefits of home comforts at Eden Park.
The Blues weren’t as clinical in the second half, as is often the case when one side compiles such a lopsided margin, as they pushed passes that often didn’t stick. Despite this, they managed four tries to two.
For all the fun the locals had, this is hardly the type of result the tournament requires, especially after last week’s competitive performance.
While the Rebels scored the final two tries, this is exactly the type of performance that fuels the argument that Australia has at least one too many teams!