April 2, 2022
A hat trick to hooker Kurt Eklund has helped secure a second Blues win over Moana Pasifika inside five days.
The Blues broke clear for a 46-16 win at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday after the Super Rugby Pacific newcomers had threatened, down just 17-13 approaching halftime.
Moana Pasifika didn't fold though, prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth confident he had put his side within 13 points with 19 minutes to play before the try was overruled due to obstruction.
Their victory followed a 32-19 Blues win in a catch-up game on Tuesday.
Hooker Kurt Eklund responded with his third try to seal the contest that was soured by a red card to Blues wing Caleb Clarke.
The winger had jumped into the air attempting to smother rival winger Tomasi Alosio's chip down the sideline.
Instead his right knee collected him in the head, forcing Alosio off and Clarke out of the contest and facing a potential suspension.
"I guess the turning point was that try that was disallowed and then we lost a bit of momentum," Moana Pasifika captain Sekope Kepu said.
"Credit to the Blues, they took their opportunities. They turned around from a bit of adversity and took it down to our half and they scored."
The Blues were again without Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (foot) while Pasifika lost coach Aaron Mauger and Filo Tiatia to COVID-19 protocols before the game.
The victory took the Blues to fourth on the ladder ahead of an away clash with the Chiefs, while Moana Pasifika next face Mauger's former team the Highlanders on Friday.
"The thing with Moana Pasifika, they live off physical footy and, man, the score doesn't reflect how hard that game was," Blues captain Dalton Papalii said.
"They always bring it and you could see if you give them a little sniff anytime in the game they can really come back.
Blues 46 (Tries: Kurt Eklund 3, Caleb Clarke, Corey Evans, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam. Con: Stephen Perofeta 4. Pen: Stephen Perofeta 1) Moana Pasifika 16 (Tries: Tomasi Alosio. Cons: Christian Leali’ifano 1. Pen: Christian Leali’ifano 3) HT: 29-16
BLUES: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Bryce Heem 12 Corey Evans, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Anton Segner 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Cameron Suafoa, 5 Sam Darry 4 James Tucker, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tanielu Tele’a, 23 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens
MOANA PASIFIKA: 15 William Havili 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai 13 Nigel Ah Wong 12 Solomone Kata 11 Tomasi Alosio 10 Christian Leali'ifano 9 Ere Enari 8 Henry Time-Stowers 7 Solomone Funaki 6 Sione Tu’ipulotu 5 Alex McRobbie 4 Veikoso Poloniati 3 Sekope Kepu © 2 Samiuela Moli 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth
RESERVES: 16 Luteru Tolai, 17 Abraham Pole, 18 Chris Apoua, 19 Mahroni Ngakuru, 20 Almanda Motuga, 21 Dwayne Polataivao, 22 Lincoln McClutchie, 23 Fine Inisi
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin, Angus Mabey