Blues score opening win over Rebels
The Auckland Blues have kicked off the 2017 Super Rugby season with a 56-18 victory over the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park, Melbourne, on Thursday night.
A hat-trick from Rieko Ioane and 31-unanswered points in 20 minutes after half-time highlighted the bonus point victory for the Blues in front of 10,265 fans.
Rebels debutants Amanaki Mafi and Jack Maddocks had an immediate impact when they set up captain Nic Stirzaker for the opening try in the sixth minute in his 50th Super Rugby appearance. However, celebrations were short lived when Stirzaker was substituted in the 14th minute with a concussion.
The visitors regained the advantage midway through the first-half when Blues loosehead prop Pauliasi Manu broke through the Rebels resolute goal line defence to find the chalk to give his side an 8-7 lead.
Jackson Garden-Bachop, who became the 100th Rebels player, struck the upright with a penalty in the 25th minute but the misfortune turned into his first career try on debut after a charge down from Jordy Reid.
Hooker Jordan Uelese became the third home-grown Victorian to make his Super Rugby debut, following in the footsteps on Sione Tuipulotu and Rob Leota in 2016, when he came on as a substitute in the 22nd minute.
2017 Super Rugby Season – Round One:
Auckland Blues 56 (P. Manu, M. Duffie, R. Ioane (3), A. Pulu, M. Nanai tries; I. West 6 conversions & 3 penalty goals)
Melbourne Rebels 18 (N. Stirzaker, J. Garden-Bachop tries; J. Garden-Bachop 2 conversions; R. Hodge 2 penalty goals)
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Half Time: Blues 25-15
News Source: Melbourne Rebels