Yellow card lift Blues to overpower Jaguares in Super Rugby clash
A yellow card for Tevita Li provided the wake-up call the Auckland Blues needed as they produced a 24-16 win over the Jaguares in a Super rugby clash in Auckland on Saturday.
In a game that seldom reached great heights, missed tackles and lost possession were the order of the day with only occasional patches of quality as Tana Umaga's Blues snared their second win of the season.
For the Jaguares it was their fourth consecutive defeat since winning their opening game against the Central Cheetahs, and a late Ihaia West penalty denied them even a bonus point for a narrow loss.
The Argentine side made nine changes for the game and omitted a host of senior players, including captain Agustin Creevy.
But it was the Blues who were the most disorganised in the opening exchanges, which saw the Jaguares up 6-0 midway through the first half from two penalties by Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias.
The Blues continued to do their best to aid the Jaguares when a Lolagi Visinia clearing kick hit teammate Steven Luatua and rebounded over the deadball line.
At the other end of the field, a Luatua pass went behind James Parsons, who had an open run to the try-line five metres away.
But after the second penalty for the Jaguares when Li was yellow-carded for repeatedly being offside, the Blues started to cut their error rate and put a bit of structure into their game.
"It wasn't pretty," captain Parsons acknowledged, noting the Blues were in trouble early on.
"We reacted well to it, stayed positive then when we got a chance to keep it down here we did."
In the closing 10 minutes of the first half the Blues chalked up 15 points with tries to Luatua and West, with West adding a conversion and penalty.
West's try was the result of a long-range counter-attack and an astute break by Rene Ranger following a misdirected Jaguares clearing kick.
A penalty to Iglesias and two more to West saw the Blues leading 21-9 with 20 minutes remaining before a Gonzalo Bertranou try converted by Nicolas Sanchez cut the margin to five points.
But their hopes of a late comeback were thwarted by West's fourth penalty, which ensured the win for the Blues.
However, scrum-half Martin Landajo, standing in for Creevy as captain, said despite being on the losing side, his tournament newcomers relished the experience gained from the match
"This is new for us, first tournament here. We are enjoying it, we are learning every match. We enjoy playing with the best teams in the world so we are having fun."
© 2016 AFP