The Western Force’s Super Rugby season slumped to a record low on Saturday, losing their 10th straight match in an emphatic 41-24 defeat to the Blues in Auckland.
Rookie winger Melani Nanai grabbed two tries to rack up the Blues’ second win of the season, both at Eden Park, in a clash between two competition strugglers.
The bottom-of-the-table Force did managed a spirited late fightback that produced a four-try bonus point, but the defeat delivered an unwelcome statistic.
Since their shock win over the defending champion NSW Waratahs in round one, they have lost 10 in a row – a franchise record – to eclipsing the nine straight losses in their inaugural year of 2006.
The Blues’ easy victory also reinforced the growing reputation of teenage loose forward Akira Ioane.
The 19-year-old Ioane, who had kept All Black Steven Luatua out of the starting line-up, proved a constant threat with ball in hand on Saturday and he was solid in defence.
He also scored a stunning 50-metre try, his speed taking him past five defenders.
In all the Blues touched down five times, but the win came at a cost.
Two of their best performers of the season, All Blacks Jerome Kaino (finger) and Charles Piutau (knee), went off in the first half with what looked like significant injuries.
The Force weren’t helped by having Dane Haylett-Petty yellow-carded late in the opening spell after the fullback took out winger Lolagi Visinia without the ball.
The Blues – having scored the game’s opening try through Nanai, his first in Super Rugby – made the one-man advantage pay by running in a pair of tries on either side of the interval.
Luatua, who had come on as Kaino’s replacement, got the first and Nanai scored the second after a big bust from impressive inside centre George Moala.
When Ioane dotted down in the corner after his scorching break, the score had ballooned out to 31-0.
The Force hit back with two quick tries to prop Pek Cowan and skipper Matt Hodgson.
Blues replacement five-eighth Ihaia West then skipped over to increase the margin.
But the visitors finished strongly, grabbing further tries through halfback Ryan Louwrens and prop Ben McCalman.