New Zealand team still a slim chance of play in playoffs this season.
The Auckland Blues demolished the Queensland Reds 44-14 to secure a bonus-point win and keep their play-off hopes alive at Eden Park on Friday.
The Blues scored five tries in a dominant performance, leading Queensland 34-0 early in the second half before the Australians added two converted tries to add some respectability to the scoreline.
The defeat leaves the Reds with three wins from 10 matches and virtually no chance of making the play-offs, while John Kirwen’s men continue a mid-season revival after a shaky start.
The result puts them one point behind New Zealand conference leaders the Wellington Hurricanes and level with defending Super 15 champions the Waikato Chiefs, both of whom are yet to play this weekend.
It also maintains their unbeaten record of five for five at Eden Park.
Veteran number eight Jerome Kaino said he was pleased to see the Blues re-discover their attacking flair.
“It was nice to see the boys throwing the ball around and get some points,”he said.
“Once we piled on those points in the first half it was important to maintain momentum and we did that apart from one period where we had a little lapse.”
Blues fly-half Simon Hickey opened the scoring with two penalties and Quade Cooper, playing his 100th game for the Reds, could have levelled but skewed his two penalty kicks wide.
Then Jackson Willison scored the opening try for the Blues, after a Ma’a Nonu pass split the Reds’ defence, with Hickey adding the conversion to make it 13-0.
Prop James Slipper make it more difficult for the Queenslanders when he was sin-binned for lifting his opponent in a tackle, with Lolagi Visinia taking advantage to score a second try for the Blues just before the break.
Auckland scrum half Bryn Hall piled on the pressure just after the restart when Nonu bustled past three defenders to set him up for the Blues’ third try.
The home side’s fourth try from lock Tom Donnelly came from an attack from deep within their own, as the Blues kept it alive with pinpoint kicking and risky long-range passes before crossing the line.
With the score 34-0, the Reds hit back through two converted tries when Ben Daley scored from a rolling maul and skipper James Horwill darted over from the back of a scrum.
But Ihaia West put the final nail in the coffin when he sprinted clear for the Blues’ fifth with two minutes to go.