A late penalty from Ihaia West secured a 25-25 draw for the Blues against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
The result denies the Reds their first triumph of the season – after they lost their first three matches – while the Blues are still winless after their victory over the Highlanders in Round One.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a closely contested affair with plenty of thrilling action and both sides crossed for three tries. The Blues will be kicking themselves as they enjoyed the brighter start to the game though a plethora of errors allowed the home side fight back.
The Blues hit the front when Ihaia West crossed for the opening try after trading passes with Rieko Ioane, who laid the platform with some fine attacking play.
But two minutes later, the scores were level when Chris Feauai-Sautia gathered a high kick from Jake McIntyre, just inside the Blues’ half, and beat Steven Luatua with somed deft footwork before finishing sensationally in the right-hand corner.
The Blues struck back via a West penalty, shortly afterwards, before Bryn Hall rounded off in the 17th minute after Lolagi Visinia set him up with a telling break in the build-up.
McIntyre then slotted two penalties which meant the visitors held a slender 15-13 lead at half-time.
The Reds were the first to score after the break – Samu Kerevi dotting down under the posts, after gathering a pass – deep inside the Blues’ half – from Eto Nabuli, who the laid the groundwork with a devastating run from close to the halfway line.
That score meant the Reds were in front for the first time and they soon extended their lead when McIntyre crossed for their third try, after Nabuli and Nick Frisby combined brilliantly to create space for him in the build-up.
The Blues had their backs to the wall and their head coach Tana Umaga made several tactical substitutions in a bid to salvage something from this encounter.
The introduction of Akira Ioane had the desired effect as he gained several metres on attack and soon there were gaps appearing in the Reds’ defence.
In the 74th minute, the visitors were rewarded when Billy Guyton got their third try, after a sniping break at a ruck close to the Reds’ try-line.
The Blues had to play the closing stages with 14 men when referee Andrew Lees sent Sione Mafileo to the sin bin for a scrum infringement.
Despite that setback, the visitors continued to attack and when the Reds infringed on defence deep inside their 22, after the full-time hooter had gone, West kicked the penalty which secured his team a share of the spoils.
Tries: Feauai-Sautia, Kerevi, McIntyre
Cons: McIntyre 2
Pens: McIntyre 2
Tries: West, Hall, Guyton
Cons: West 2
Pens: West 2
Yellow card: Mafileo
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Waita Setu, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase
Replacements: 16 Matt Mafi, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru
Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Male Sa’u, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Akira Ioane, 22 Billy Guyton, 23 Matt McGahan
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry, Jordan Way
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore