Some individual brilliance from winger Rieko Ioane has helped the Blues to a come-from-behind 23-18 win over the Sharks at Eden Park.
Ioane burst through a tiring Sharks defence and raced 40 metres to score with 15 minutes to go before first five-eighth Ihaia West added the extras and kicked a late penalty to secure the hard-fought win.
It was 11 years to the day since the Blues’ last win against the Sharks and for a long period of the match it looked like that losing streak would be stretched to 11 games.
But the Blues dug deep – despite losing Rene Ranger to a knee injury – and finished their opportunities when it mattered to claim their third win of the season.
It was an emotional match for the Blues. A moment’s silence was observed pre-game and the Blues wore black armbands in memory of former Blues player Kurtis Haiu who passed away earlier in the week after a battle with cancer.
The Blues got the first points on the board with a fifth-minute penalty to West, but they had to wait until the 36th-minute before they added to it with a converted try to replacement George Moala, who had only just replaced Ranger.
In between, Tana Umaga’s men created plenty of opportunities but simply could not finish them off. They drifted across field on attack making it easy for the Sharks defence and compounded that with 16 turnovers in the opening 40 minutes.
When West finally did attack the line it brought reward with Moala diving over.
Ranger limped off in the 32nd minute and at that point the South Africans, 11-3 up, looked in charge after a ninth-minute try to Tendai Mtawarira, some excellent work on defence and two Joe Pietersen penalties.
Instead the visitors had to settle for a one-point lead at the break, but made a perfect start to the second half when Willie Le Roux ghosted between James Parson and Moala to set up Paul Jordaan for a try just two minutes after the re-start, which Pietersen converted.
In a scrappy second stanza West cut the deficit to five points with a penalty, then converted Ioane’s smartly taken try before sealing the win with a final three-pointer.