While there were some who had reservations about Rieko Ionae’s all but permanent shift from the left wing to the midfield, the 34-cap All Black has never failed to cause problems for opposition defences – wherever he’s been placed on the field.
In Sunday afternoon’s clash with the Highlanders, Ioane was again at the forefront as the Crusaders’ only feasible challengers for the Super Rugby Aotearoa title cut loose against a hapless Highlanders side.
The Highlanders were able to retain possession from the first kick-off of the match until the 4th minute of the game, scoring 3 points in the process. From that point on, however, the Blues dominated proceedings and come the 10th minute of the game, the home side struck their first major blow of the game.
Parked on the 10-metre line inside Highlanders territory and with a penalty advantage to play with, halfback Jonathan Ruru swung the ball out wide to fullback Stephen Perofeta.
With the ball in two hands, Perofeta charged between Manaaki Selby-Rickit and former teammate Michael Collins. The two defending Highlanders managed to bring Perofeta to ground – but not before he was able to offload to a looming Rieko Ioane.
? Dangerous start from the @BluesRugbyTeam
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 14, 2021
Ioane burst onto the ball with his trademark piece and, despite Josh Ioane getting his hands on his namesake and seemingly bringing him to the turf, the ranging midfielder was able to pop up and eventually offload to a supporting Otere Black – who was able to dot the ball down untouched.
The move highlighted Ioane’s outrageous pace which, while it’s hard to contain for most outside backs, is near impossible to manage for even the quickest centres.
The Blues scored one more try through Caleb Clarke – with Perofeta again playing a key role in the build-up – and took a 17-3 lead into the halftime break.
What should have been a third try – this time to Ioane – was ruled out due to a supposed forward pass from brother Akira in the lead-up – but the ball appeared to travel backwards out of the hands, which would have reminded fans of last night’s TMO blunder.
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