Sotutu powers Blues to 46-7 win over Brumbies in Super Rugby Pacific

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Hoskins Sotutu scored two tries to help the Auckland-based Blues rout the ACT Brumbies 46-7 on Saturday, highlighting a gulf between top New Zealand and Australian teams in Super Rugby Pacific.

The Blues and Brumbies came into the match jointly in second place behind the unbeaten Hurricanes. But after an indecisive first 10 minutes, the Blues simply overwhelmed their opponents in wet and slippery conditions and posted their largest-ever win over the Canberra-based Brumbies.

In the final match of the ninth round on Saturday, the Perth, Australia-based Western Force beat the Christchurch, New Zealand-based Crusaders 37-15 — the first win by the Force over the Crusaders in 11 years.

After a day of torrential rain in Auckland, the match seemed likely to become a kicking contest. Instead, the Blues kept the ball in hand and the Brumbies, who are the best of Australia’s teams, couldn’t compete against the Blues’ big ball runners, among them Sotutu and Caleb Clarke.

By halftime, the Blues had scored three tries including Sotutu’s double and the Brumbies had been forced to make four times as many tackles as their opponents. Sotutu is the top try-scorer after nine rounds of the tournament with eight tries.

The second half didn’t get any easier. The Blues scored within five minutes of the restart, then twice more inside the third quarter as the Brumbies frittered away their poor share of possession through poor handling.

"I think from the beginning of the season we’ve been building a lot, and coming out of the bye week we had to pick up where we left off,” Sotutu said.

“We know that we can play the carry, clean game really well and we knew with the weather it was going to be a strong point.”

The Brumbies should have scored in the sixth minute when winger Ollie Sapsford was given space in a one-on-one with his Blues marker but was tackled.

The Blues scrumhalf Taufa Funaki was sin-binned in the course of the movement but, in a turning point in the match, Sotutu scored his first try while the Blues were down a man.

Clarke ran off his left wing to score as first receiver from a five meter scrum in the 32nd minute, then Sotutu completed his double just before halftime and after a period of chaos for the Brumbies.

Sapsford knocked on a kick from Cole Forbes in front of his own goalline. The Brumbies defended the scrum but after winning a goalline dropout, flyhalf Noah Lolesio put the ball out on the full, giving the Blues another scrum from which Sotutu scored.

The Blues led 24-0 at halftime and kept up the pressure in the second half, helped by a yellow card in the 50th minute to veteran Brumbies prop James Slipper.

Backrower Dalton Papali’i and hooker Ricky Riccitelli scored from lineout drives after penalties as the Blues lead expanded to 41-0. The Brumbies finally got on the board with Luke Reimer's 64th minute try.

Replacement hooker Kurt Eklund scored the last of the Blues’ tries just before fulltime.

On Friday, the Hurricanes stretched their winning start to the season to eight games with a 38-15 win over the Fijian Drua and the Queensland Reds beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders 31-0.


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