Blues

Walsh, Mulitalo out and Coates in; Blues good to go

With centre duo Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell running amok, and Origin debutants Jarome Luai and Brian To'o putting their stamp on the interstate contest in memorable fashion, the Blues were unstoppable in racking up a 50-6 win in game one.

The Blues were virtually unaffected by Queensland closing its borders to residents from Sydney's COVID-19 hotspots and continued Origin camp in Kingscliff on the northern NSW.

The NSW squad headed north on Monday and was COVID tested before entering camp.

Blues hush-hush on Beauden Barrett wildcard

Back from his time playing in Japan and finished with his two weeks in managed isolation, the All Blacks star returned to Blues training on Tuesday.

Barrett's return also coincided with first-five Otere Black limping from the training field after taking a knock to his lower leg.

Asked about the prospect of Barrett stepping in if Black's injury did rule him out of Saturday's final in Auckland, Blues assistant coach Dan Halangahu was staying tight lipped.

"I don't want to say too much.

Blues to host Highlanders in trans-Tasman final as Crusaders fall short

Needing only to win to secure their spot after the Crusaders failed to rack up enough points against the Rebels in Saturday's earlier match, the Blues completed their mission reasonably comfortably against the Perth-based Australians.

Four unanswered tries in the first half, including two for loose forward Hoskins Sotutu, all but secured the Blues a first home Super Rugby final since they won their third title in the international competition in 2003.

Hoskins Sotutu returns as one of three All Blacks tweaks to Blues forward pack

There are just three changes to the starting lineup, all in the forward pack.

Hoskins Sotutu, who debuted in the All Blacks last season, has been elevated back into the starting team at number 8 in place of fellow NZ representative Akira Ioane who drops to the bench.

Sotutu has missed just one game for the Blues this year and was also benched for last weekend’s clash with the Reds. Ioane, meanwhile, has featured in every single game for the Auckland franchise in 2021, either in the starting lineup or from the reserves.

Advantage Blues as Crusaders slip up

The Crusaders earlier beat the Western Force 29-21 in the opening match of the round but were left ruing a try after the hooter from the visitors that also cost them a bonus point.

The Blues top the standings by a point from the Crusaders with the Hurricanes, who play the ACT Brumbies on Saturday, a further three points back in third. The top two after next week's final round will play off for the title.

NZ teams go unbeaten in round one of Super Rugby trans-Tasman

Domingo Miotti missed a chance to see the Western Force to a home win over the Chiefs in Perth as they went down 20-19 while Noah Lolesio missed a similar last-gasp chance to earn the ACT Brumbies a draw with the Crusaders in Christchurch, handing the New Zealanders a 31-29 win.

The Blues, meanwhile, pulverised the Melbourne Rebels 50-3.

The trio of New Zealand wins added to Friday's success for the Highlanders, who outmuscled Australian champions Queensland Reds, and the Hurricanes, who beat the New South Wales Waratahs.

Jordan shines as Crusaders secure home final

Fullback Jordan brushed off five potential tacklers to open the scoring in the fifth minute and delivered the bonus point seven minutes from time by chasing down a David Havili kick through.

Defeat without bonus points leaves the Blues needing a big win over the resurgent Chiefs at Eden Park next week if they are to provide the opposition in the title-decider for the second year in a row on May 8.

Blues prop Alex Hodgman cops three-week suspension

Hodgman on Monday copped a three-week suspension from the Sanzaar judiciary on the back of his red card in Friday’s Super Rugby Aotearoa defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The 27-year-old, who got his first All Blacks callup in 2020, had been sent off in the 72nd minute of the sloppy 35-29 defeat for driving his shoulder into the chin of Highlanders loose forward James Lentjes. It was an ugly incident that brokered little argument at the time for earning the ultimate sanction.

Highlanders hold on to beat Blues

The Blues trailed 30-24 when replacement prop Alex Hodgman was sent off in the 73rd minute for driving his shoulder into the chin of Highlanders loose forward James Lentjes at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The Highlanders wasted no time capitalising on their man advantage, with Michael Collins cantering over with six minutes left after latching on to a bullet-like pass from Mitch Hunt.

Hoskins Sotutu barged over for the Blues a minute before the siren but the Highlanders won back the ball after the restart to clinch their first win at home for the season.

Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu vows he’s learned lesson over spurned shots

The Blues’ Super Rugby Aotearoa season hit a familiar skid with a second straight defeat to send the ambitious Auckland franchise tumbling back to the pack in the now tight race for second spot, and a likely crack at the Crusaders in the final in Christchurch. They host the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday night to open the second and final round of qualifying games (though the mooted trans-Tasman competition to follow remains shrouded in doubt).