The Western Force gave it everything but didn’t have the polish to finish as the Blues held on for a 17-13 Super Rugby win on Saturday night at nib Stadium.
The Blues needed to rebound from their second-worst defeat at the hands of the Lions last week in Johannesburg and they quickly opened up a 17-3 first-half lead after tries to Jerome Kaino and Tevita Li.
But it was a determined Force looking for consecutive wins, after beating the Sunwolves last week to snap a seven-game losing streak.
A try to captain Matt Hodgson helped them get within four points and they continued desperately for the go-ahead try in the final minutes, but couldn’t get through the Blues’ defence.
To top it off, Hodgson left the field late in the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
The Force dominated the opening 10 minutes and the period leading into halftime but only had three points to show for it.
The Blues made them pay in between, turning on some terrific running rugby. A scintillating run by Billy Guyton set up a Kaino try after 26 minutes and, when Li ran half the field to score five minutes later, the Blues were on fire.
The Force steadied before the break but failed to score and then rain began pouring down in the second half with the home team adjusting the better.
After one try was disallowed for an obvious obstruction, Hodgson scored for the Force and, when that was converted, they trailed by just seven points.
With 15 minutes to go, the Force closed to within three with a powerful Ben Tapuai penalty goal. The home team dominated the remaining time as well with possession and territory, but couldn’t quite find a way to score again to take the lead.
In the last round before the international break, the Force play the Rebels in Melbourne on Sunday week (May 29) and the Blues take on the Crusaders on Saturday (May 28) at home.