The Blues have kept pace with the top four with a 30-14 win over the Fijian Drua in Fiji.
It’s the first time the Drua have been defeat at home in 2023 as Leon McDonald’s men get their third win in a row.
Both team struggled with handling errors in the hot and humid conditions, having to wait 25 minutes until the first points via Beauden Barrett’s boot.
Rieko Ioane opened the try-scoring for the Blues two minutes later as they kicked clear for a 13-0 lead before number eight Elia Canakaivata got the crowd on their feet after a mistake from the kick-off
Canakaivata’s effort was instantly answered by a tackle-busting charge from lock Cameron Suafoa, giving the Blues a 13-point half-time advantage.
Dalton Papalii made a successful return from injury to help close the game out for the visitors.
He powered over from close to punish an ill-disciplined performance from the hosts to push the game beyond reach.
Canakaivata got his second with 15 minutes to go, finishing off a nice move in the corner.The class of Barrett helped close out the game with a penalty nine minutes before the full-time whistle.“We expected it was going to be hot but once you actually feel the heat, it is a whole different ball game,” Papalii said after the game
“We knew we had to play at our tempo and control the game but credit to the Drua, they’ve been playing good all season. When they get those offloads away, they’re a dangerous team.”
The win lifts the Blues into fourth position, leapfrogging the Crusaders, who have a game in hand.
It caps off a dramatic week for coach Leon McDonald, who was named All Blacks assistant coach for 2024, turning his focus towards next week’s clash with Moana Pasifika.
As for the Drua, they will be hungry for victory against the Hurricanes at HCF Bank Stadium, sitting two points outside the top eight.
DRUA (1-15): Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere (c), Samuela Tawake, Isoa Nasilasila, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Vilive Miramira, Kitione Salawa, Elia Canakaivata, Frank Lomani, Teti Tela, Eroni Sau, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada, Ilaisa Droasese
RESERVES: Mesulame Dolokoto, Emosi Tuqiri, Jone Tiko, Chris Minimbi, Joseva Tamani, Peni Matawalu, Kemu Valetini, Apisalome Vota
BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tuungafasi, Soane Vikena, Marcel Renata, Cameron Suafoa, Sam Darry, Adrian Choat, Dalton Papalii (c), Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Harry Plummer, Rieko Ioane, Mark Telea, Zarn Sullivan
RESERVES: Ricky Riccitelli, Jordan Lay, James Lay, James Tucker, Akira Ioane, Sam Nock, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw