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Blues v Brumbies: match was won by half-time, All Blacks can’t ignore Sotutu

By Finn Morton
Bryce Heem of the Blues celebrates a penalty during the round nine Super Rugby Pacific match between Blues and ACT Brumbies at Eden Park, on April 20, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The Blues have sent a scarily good statement to the other teams in Super Rugby Pacific with a masterful 46-7 win over the Brumbies in a top-three clash at Auckland’s Eden Park.

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Hoskins Sotutu scored the opening try inside the first 10 minutes as the Blues looked to take control. It was a bit of a rugby war that followed, but eventually, the Aucklanders ran away with it.

All Blacks wing Caleb Clarke scored late in the half and Sotutu was on the scoresheet for a second time as the Blues ran up a 24-nil half-time lead which basically summed up the Brumbies’ night.

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It was more of the same after the break and while the Brumbies eventually got on the scoreboard, the result was never really in doubt beyond the 35-minute mark.

Here are some takeaways from the Blues’ big win over the Brumbies.

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
0
7
Tries
1
4
Conversions
1
0
Drop Goals
0
158
Carries
46
6
Line Breaks
2
8
Turnovers Lost
16
5
Turnovers Won
3

The Blues won the match before the half-time break

When referee Ben O’Keeffe blew his whistle for half-time and both teams made their way off the park, the match was already over. In a literal sense, there were still 40 minutes to play, but the victor had basically already been decided.

There was a bit of a kicking battle to start the contest as both the Blues and Brumbies looked to find their feet and rhythm. The hosts looked the more likely to score early after going practically the distance during well-worked phase play, only to pull up short.

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Then, just a few minutes later, Blues halfback Taufa Funaki was yellow carded with the Brumbies within a metre of the try line. The hosts went down to 14 men and the Aussie powerhouse wanted to make the most of it.

But they couldn’t.

The undermanned Blues took a 7-nil lead after a try to Hoskins Sotutu in the ninth minute, and they looked the more likely to score next as well. While it took a while, that statement proved true with Caleb Clarke scoring late in the half.

Much to the delight of the Eden Park crowd, the Blues led 17-nil after 37 minutes, but the Aucklanders weren’t done – they just needed some help.

Brumbies wing Ollie Sapsford got it all wrong trying to reel in a clearance kick close to his own line. The New Zealand-born Brumby coughed up the ball to give the Blues a scrum close to the try line, and why they didn’t score right away, the hosts were gifted a lifeline.

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Seemingly looking to bring an end to the half, first five Noah Lolesio kicked a goal line dropout out on the full. That gifted the Blues another scrum which led to another Hoskins Sotutu try.

“They punishing the Brumbies now the Blues,” commentator Tony Johnson said. “A dominant first-half capitalising on errors.

“Hoskins Sotutu in for a try that makes it 22-nil.

“This has been an outstanding 40 minutes of rugby from the home team,” he added shortly after.”

The Blues were full of confidence and had all the points as well. It was a clinical first half which, barring a miraculous comeback from the visitors after the break, already decided who would win the top-three clash before the second 40 got underway.

Blues enforcer Hoskins Sotutu sends another message to All Blacks selectors

The best player from the opening two rounds of Super Rugby Pacific was Hoskins Sotutu. Sotutu scored five tries in matches against the Fijian Drua and the Highlanders.

It was a statement from the Blues enforcer who hasn’t played for the All Blacks in more than a year. Sotutu didn’t even play for the All Blacks XV in 2023 which “lit a fire” in the dangerous backrower.

“It’s not about making any teams, it’s about proving to myself and proving to everyone else that I’m still a good player. Just that really,” Sotutu told RugbyPass earlier this season.

“There’s just a bit of motivation,” he added.

“I definitely wanted to come in and start strong. I don’t want to come in off the back of maybe an average end to Super last year to be on that downward sort of thing.

“It’s a hard thing as well to start strong and then you’ve got to hold it up through the season but you’d rather that than build into it.”

Sotutu sent another message to All Blacks coach Scott Robertson and selectors on Saturday with what will go down in history as a headline-grabbing double against the Brumbies. Both tries proved to be a catalyst for a special Blues win at Eden Park.

The Blues No. 8 also won a penalty at the breakdown and ran for more than 35 metres. It was the type of performance that warrants a return to the All Blacks – and it’s not Sotutu’s first match like that this season.

Sometimes you just need to take the points

When the match was close, the Brumbies had plenty of opportunities to pile on some scoreboard pressure of their own. Noah Lolesio had a couple of kickable opportunities to strike inside the opening 30 minutes of play.

Lolesio, 24, has been sensational off the kicking tee this season. The fly-half has been so good off the boot, as well as in general play, that the Australian should return to the Wallabies’ fold under new coach Joe Schmidt – but that’s another opinion for another day.

The Blues only led 7-nil when the Brumbies were awarded a penalty midway through the opening half. But the men from Australia’s capital decided to go after all seven points. Lolesio failed to find the corner, and while they won the lineout, the Brumbies lost possession soon after.

But that’s not all. In the 28th minute, the Brumbies were awarded another penalty from a tough position. Once again, the visitors decided to go for the corner. They won their lineout and set up for phase play but Hoskins Sotutu relieved pressure by winning a penalty at the breakdown.

“It’s the sort of game you’d think some teams it’d be all about ‘let’s not leave empty handed.’ The Brumbies have gone for the big blow and so far have got nothing out of it,” commentator Tony Johnson explained.

The Blues took full advantage. They went down the other end and after receiving a couple of penalties, Caleb Clarke scored to help double the Blues’ advantage.

This match had a test match feel to it in the lead-up to the Super Rugby Pacific blockbuster, but the Brumbies didn’t quite attack it like that. They’re an ambitious side who elected to roll the dice but it didn’t quite pay off for them.

Sometimes you just have to take the points when they’re on offer. This could’ve been a very different game.

Mark Tele’a proves himself again in a duel between two talented wingers

About 24 hours after losing the Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France last year, All Blacks and Blues wing Mark Tele’a was recognised as World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year. Tele’a was sensational for both club and country in 2023.

Tele’a had been fairly impressive again this time around, and while Caleb Clarke stole the show from an outside back’s point of view against the Brumbies, the wing’s duel with Wallaby-in-waiting Corey Toole deserves a mention.

Corey Toole, who really should debut for Australia against Wales or Georgia in July, didn’t run the ball once during the opening 50 minutes. Sometimes that’s the life of a winger, but don’t tell Mark Tele’a that.

In an interesting difference between the pair, Tele’a – and Caleb Clarke as well – both went looking for work. Tele’a had run for more than 55 metres in the same time span, which included one line break and three defenders beaten.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding former SVNS Series star Corey Toole, and with good reason, but Blues wing Mark Tele’a is still the king of the castle for wingers in Super Rugby Pacific.

The Brumbies are a pretender

Playing at the fortress that is Eden Park, the Blues were widely considered favourites for this match. Yes, both teams sat equal on 27 competition points with six wins from seven starts, but the Blues were tipped to keep the good times going.

The Blues did just that. They got the job done inside the first 35 minutes at Eden Park, and some teams would potentially take the foot off the gas when the match appears all but won. But not the Blues.

If anything the Blues took it up another gear as the Brumbies continued to look more and more lost. “There’s only been one team in it,” commentator Tony Johnson said in the 62nd minute.

The Brumbies didn’t have a lot of ball and maybe that counts for something, but the point scored against them tonight suggests that they aren’t ready to take the next step by challenging for a Super Rugby Pacific title in June.

There’s still time to turn it around, but at this stage, the Brumbies appear to be a contender for the title rather than a genuine contender.

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D
Diarmid 10 hours ago
Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

The guy had just beasted himself in a scrum and the blood hadn't yet returned to his head when he was pushed into a team mate. He took his weight off his left foot precisely at the moment he was shoved and dropped to the floor when seemingly trying to avoid stepping on Hyron Andrews’ foot. I don't think he was trying to milk a penalty, I think he was knackered but still switched on enough to avoid planting 120kgs on the dorsum of his second row’s foot. To effectively “police” such incidents with a (noble) view to eradicating play acting in rugby, yet more video would need to be reviewed in real time, which is not in the interest of the game as a sporting spectacle. I would far rather see Farrell penalised for interfering with the refereeing of the game. Perhaps he was right to be frustrated, he was much closer to the action than the only camera angle I've seen, however his vocal objection to Rodd’s falling over doesn't legitimately fall into the captain's role as the mouthpiece of his team - he should have kept his frustration to himself, that's one of the pillars of rugby union. I appreciate that he was within his rights to communicate with the referee as captain but he didn't do this, he moaned and attempted to sway the decision by directing his complaint to the player rather than the ref. Rugby needs to look closely at the message it wants to send to young players and amateur grassroots rugby. The best way to do this would be to apply the laws as they are written and edit them where the written laws no longer apply. If this means deleting laws such as ‘the put in to the scrum must be straight”, so be it. Likewise, if it is no longer necessary to respect the referee’s decision without questioning it or pre-emptively attempting to sway it (including by diving or by shouting and gesticulating) then this behaviour should be embraced (and commercialised). Otherwise any reference to respecting the referee should be deleted from the laws. You have to start somewhere to maintain the values of rugby and the best place to start would be giving a penalty and a warning against the offending player, followed by a yellow card the next time. People like Farrell would rapidly learn to keep quiet and let their skills do the talking.

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