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<hash>Blues</hash> end home season with win

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Saturday, July 7, 2012    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

It wasn't one of the most riveting fixtures, hamstrung as it was by fundamental flaws at one of the set pieces, the scrum, which offered few moments of enjoyment all evening. But there were moments of satisfaction for the home side after a season to forget.

Blindside flanker Steven Luatua demonstrated his immense potential, highlighting the one positive to come out of the Blues' season – the introduction of new young players with the potential for long service. Apart from his vital first half try, he powered down the blindside in an impressive thrust early in the second half to demonstrate the Blues intentions in power play while also proving highly effective in the lineout.

Fullback, and NZ Sevens representative, Charles Piutau was another to shine and when added to centre Francis Saili who had earlier shown his worth, the attacking future looked bright.

But it was in the traditional crunch area that the Blues created the foundation for the win.

Having shown in the final moments of the first half that they had the cohesion in forward exchanges to maul the Force pack effectively, the policy was to take them on upfront.

And that was what produced the game opening try in the 54th minute for debut fullback Charles Piutau. A quick penalty kick was taken by halfback Piri Weepu. The ball was played to the left with outstanding No.8 Luke Braid prominent. When switched to the right, a long pass from second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu allowed Piutau to show his footwork in a one-on-one situation which left centre Will Tupou sprawled face down on the ground.

Three minutes later a storming break by Luke Braid created another chance on the right flank where replacement loose forward Peter Saili charged onto a long pass from Nonu to split the defence in a powerful surge which allowed him to find Nonu in support and he crossed for his 100th first-class try.

Braid had his reward when scoring from a five-metre scrum fed by the Force. Flanker Daniel Braid upset the poorly controlled Force ball and secured the ball which bobbled around before brother Luke picked it up, beat two tackles and raced over to score.

After the Force led 6-3 from two penalty goals to first five-eighths Ben Seymour and one by home wing Lachie Munro, the Blues lifted the intensity of their game and carried play forward at speed to get into the Force 22m area. Nonu charged at the line, was grounded short by wing Napolioni Nalaga who, as Nonu looked to get over the line with momentum Nalaga's arm denied him.

But after scrummaging issues through the first quarter, the Blues pack got their set right five metres out and after an initial blindside probe by Weepu, it was Luatua who drove over wide out.

Seymour landed a third penalty to get back to 10-9 but with the Blues on the maul deep into the Force 22m area after the half-time hooter, a penalty was awarded for a maul collapse and Munro added his second penalty goal.

Hooker Nathan Charles twice saved tries for his side with covering defence to deny Piutau and Nonu tries.

Nalaga demonstrated his attacking worth with a significant midfield break which split the Blues defence. However, Piutau was undaunted in making the tackle and by the time Nalaga was back on his feet the defence had rallied and by holding him on his feet they won a defensive scrum.

Scorers:

Blues 32 (Steven Luatua, Charles Piutau, Ma'a Nonu, Luke Braid tries, Lachie Munro 3 con, 2 pen ) Force 9 (Ben Seymour 3 pen ). HT: 13-9