The Auckland Blues have written history in as far as rugby in Samoa goes.
Their faith to have what should have been a home game at Eden Park moved to Samoa paid off when they overcame Queensland Reds, 34-29, last night infront of a largely Blues crowd at Apia Park.
While the victory wouldn’t do anything to improve their chances of a Super Rugby playoff finish, it would no doubt do the team a world of good heading into their clash with the Lions next week.
In Apia, although the Reds were outnumbered in terms of supporters in the Apia Park crowd, the Australians fought valiantly and could have still won the game.
Alas, it wasn’t to be.
A try by debutant and young Samoan, Stephen Perofeta, secured the Blues the victory - a win that could have been a lot bigger had it not been for two disallowed tries.
Akira Ioane scored a last minute try but was disallowed.
The same thing happened in the opening minute when the Blues found open space on the right side of Apia Park only to have the try disallowed.
But that didn’t matter. The Blues immediately regained possession and Rene Ranger scored the match’s opening try, 7-0.
Moments later, Rieko Ioane was at the end of another brilliant break from Ranger setting up their second try.
With the score, 12-0, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Reds under the stars of Apia. Things looked especially bleak with Reds captain, Samu Kerevi, off with an injury.
But the Tongan Thor, Taniela Tupou, helped the Reds back into the game with the first of his two tries, 12-5.
Both sides scored tries through lineout drives then fly-half Piers Francis potted a long-range penalty to extend the Blues' lead to 20-12 at the half time break.
A Cooper penalty at the beginning of the second stanza narrowed the deficit for the Reds, 20-15. When Adam Korczyk scored to give them the lead, 20-22, it looked the Blues were back to the old bad ways.
But Gerard Cowley-Tuioti snatched it back for the Blues before Tupou powered over for his second try.
Perofeta came off the bench to have the final say for the Blues.
Coach Tana Umaga was proud of his men.
“It was a bit on and off,” he said. “We made a few errors, and every time we scored, we let them back in and that’s rugby. I suppose that the best thing for us is that we were able to stay in the game. And having our young players who stood up and showed resilience is great.”
Umaga said he was grateful for the support from Samoa.
“We’ve been proud and humbled by the amount of people coming out to us, and although its not the first big game, we’ve had the All Blacks here, and now we’ve had the Super Rugby games, I think we should continue to draw more big game to Samoa.
“We would love to come back if we could, and if we have the opportunity to do that, we will. I’m sure the people who make those decisions who are sitting higher than I do have seen all that went down here, I’m sure we could do something like that again.
“We came here yesterday, it’s been pretty quick as we had a few other games and we were just managing them back home. Also we didn't know the squad was going to be until Wednesday.”
Reds Coach Nick Stiles said he was disappointed with the loss.
“Disappointed with the loss of course, but really thrilled with some of our young guys,” he said. “We made some changes in the squad for this game, changes in guard. The performance of Tanielu Tupuo, Andrew Ready, Luchan Tui were outstanding. They are good footballers, they’re keen and are hungry and they are going to drive this club forward.”
He said they have a free month and they have seven players going into the Wallabies and the rest will continue to work hard.
BLUES 34 (R Ioane, R Ranger, K Pryor, G Cowley-Tuioti, S Perofeta tries; P Francis con, pen goal, S Perofeta 2 conv)
REDS 29 (T Tupou 2, A Ready, A Korczyk tries