All Blacks wing and Blues ‘utility back’ Rieko Ioane was one of the Blues shining lights of the 2018 Super Rugby season, despite the Blues only yielding four wins, the 21-year-old speedster consistently gave the Blues fans something to cheer about.
RugbyPass counts down his top 10 plays of the season.
10. Catch me if you… Oh
First play on the list is this breakaway run against the Waratahs which is both a good play and a blown opportunity. The Blues turn the ball over on their own 5, and Pulu smartly finds Rieko with open pastures ahead. Waratahs winger Cameron Clarke does a fantastic job of chasing down Ioane, pulling him down a few metres short. Ioane gets up and goes again but referee Jaco Piper rules the tackle completed.
With an unmarked Caleb Clarke on the outside, Ioane misses a sure try by not passing but taking a ‘glass half full’ approach, the Blues just escaped from their own five and put the Waratahs deep on their own line. Think of it as a 90-metre exit play.
9. The spoils of playing with SBW
The headline midfield of Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane was possibly the top reason to tune into Blues games this year. The best offloader in the game and the number one speedster in the game, this combination should have been opening up teams all year. With Ioane’s positional musical chairs and Williams injury problems, the two only started twice together in the midfield.
One this occasion against the Crusaders, Ioane shows a glimpse of what this combination could look like by coming off his wing to finish off the break by Williams. With the speed to catch any teammate, Ioane could make a decent living by just playing support lines off Williams. Hopefully, there is more of this in 2019.
8. Fa’auli gets Shake’n’baked
There is no better example of the explosiveness of Ioane’s left step than this right-left combo on Johnny Fa’auli.
Ioane fakes to the outside and cuts hard off the left foot to beat Fa’auli on the inside. He breaks the sliding tackle from the next inside defender and races away downfield, beating Fa’auli’s second attempt before being brought down in a great cover tackle by Damian McKenzie.
The Blues aren’t able to capitalise on the break and end up losing 27-21 in a tight match but this big play by Ioane showed the kind of game-breaking potential he has in the midfield, using footwork to create his own space.
7. Show and go vs Samu Kerevi
In the Blues last home game against the Reds in Round 16, Ioane scores by breezing through some passive Reds defence in a send-off win for franchise hero Jerome Kaino.
After halback Sam Nock takes a quick tap he quickly feeds Ioane, who is in open space. He looks to draw Kerevi into contact and send his outside man away but Kerevi plays off for too long.
Ioane dummies and goes inside, breaking through a pretty poor arm tackle by Jono Lance to cruise over for five points.
6. See ya Jordie
Despite being at sixes and sevens on defence against Ngani Laumape, Ioane got a couple back against the Hurricanes in Round 18, scoring a double himself. This foot race with fullback Jordie Barrett showed off Ioane’s supreme pace.
The makeshift midfielder finds a nice hole opening after some smart work from Stephen Perofeta to create the gap. With an open lane ahead and Jordie too late to make the covering tackle, Ioane breaks through the Hurricanes defence to score in the corner.
5. Ioane burns the Crusaders
The youngest Ioane brother had arguably his best match of the season against the Crusaders at home in Round 14, where he resumed duties in the number 11 jersey. He finished the night with two tries, two try assists and four line breaks in a vintage performance against the defending champions.
His second assist of the night was one of his best of the year. He picks up a loose ball before breaking to the outside, stepping Mataele and leaving him on the ground. Stumbling just a little causes sweeping halfback Mitch Drummond to hesitate just as Ioane regains balance and hits the accelerator, leaving him in cement blocks.
With the fullback to beat, Ioane neatly passes inside to Michael Collins who finishes the opportunity by beating the cover tackle of Mo’unga.
4. More midfield mayhem
With the clock winding down against the Crusaders, Ioane has one last magic moment to inspire his team.
Deep in his own half, Ioane shakes the rush defence of Richie Mo’unga and proceeds to run past no less than five Crusaders on a rampant downfield break. If not for a last-ditch tackle by David Havili, this may have been the try of the season.
Again, Ioane rips through the line whilst playing the closing stages of the match at centre. Unfortunately for the Blues, no support players are able to keep up with him. He has an arm free to offload in the low tackle but the nearest teammate is 10 metres behind him.
3. Ioane’s first try of the year in Jo’burg
Early in the season, the Blues pulled off a miraculous 38-35 victory over South Africa’s best team, the Lions.
They managed to come back from a two-try deficit twice, and both the Ioane brothers were a huge reason why. In the first rally, Ioane combined with SBW to score his first try of the season.
Williams shapes to attack the line but is able to link with Ioane, putting him on the outside of his man with a perfectly weighted pass. Ioane does what Ioane does best, quickly hitting top speed and cutting back past multiple Lions defenders to score next to the posts.
2. Ioane leaves Tamanivalu in the dust
The first assist Ioane had against the Crusaders ranks better than the second, coming in at number two.
This piece of speed and skill was one of Ioane’s best moments of the year. Scooping up a wild flick pass by prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi on halfway, he puts on the afterburners and leaves Seta Tamanivalu at the altar. He seems to run by him with ease, despite the Crusaders winger coming across in stride.
Ioane tries to do the same to Havili in a tight corridor, but the Crusaders fullback is up to the task. Whilst being dragged over the sideline, he is able to fling the ball back inside to Matt Duffy looming in support to finish a great try.
1. Leaving the Highlanders high and dry
Rieko Ioane’s top Super Rugby play of 2018 came way back in the opening round, combining with a number of his teammates to come up with this beautifully constructed try.
After cleaning up the clearing kick, Ioane quickly reloads on the short side for a raid.
Pulu skips past him to the edge where a brilliant Sonny Bill offload frees Duffie down the sideline. His pass is bettered by an even better back-hand flick by Ioane in a 1-2 combo that leaves the Highlanders caught short down the tramlines, where Duffie jogs the rest of the way to score.
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