2 Mar 2024

Super Rugby Aupiki: Blues knock off champions in deep south thriller

7:03 pm on 2 March 2024
Sylvia Brunt of the Blues charges forward during the round one Super Rugby Aupiki match between Matatu and Blues.

Sylvia Brunt of the Blues charges forward during the round one Super Rugby Aupiki match between Matatu and Blues. Photo: Joe Allison

The Blues Women overcame a shocking first half and crazy finish to defeat defending Super Rugby Aupiki champions Matatū 24-17 in Invercargill today.

The match should have been over after replacement flanker Tafito Lafaele's 78th minute try, as all the Blues had to do was kick the ball into touch to hear the final whistle. However, the ball was turned over and the home side rallied to go 80 metres and send prop Moomooga Palu over, only to have her held up by some desperate Blues defence.

It was an error-ridden first half, which started appropriately with Black Fern prop Amy Rule dropping the kickoff. It led to the Blues' best chance of the first 40, but they proved that the nerves were fraying both ways when Ruahei Demant threw a cut out pass that should have resulted in an easy try straight into touch.

The penalties and scrums flowed thick and fast thereafter, thanks to a litany of sloppy handling and poor decision-making. The Blues' unleashed Sylvia Brunt up the middle after a long period of defence, a play that resulted in a yellow card to Martha Matalele.

It would have been fitting if it had been a scoreless first half as neither side really deserved any points, but Pip Love dove over to give Matatū a 7-0 lead at the break.

Matatū winger Winnie Palamo crossed to make it 12-0 shortly after the resumption, her try the result of some slick play and a nice cut out pass by Amy du Plessis.

However, it was a new face's heroics that finally woke the Blues up. Niall Williams-Guthrie pulled off a stunning bit of defensive work, punching the ball clean out of Mataele's arms as she dived in for what should have been an important Matatū try.

Shortly after they strung a bunch of phases together and created a big overlap for Jaymie Kolose to score her first try, then Krysten Cottrell stepped past the defence to dot down next to the posts and give the Blues the lead for the first time.

Grace Brooker grabbed the lead back for Matatū with a try in the corner, but the Blues then scored the try of the match when Maama Vaipulu's crucial offload found its way to Cottrell, who gunned it down the wing and sent Kolose over for her second.

Lafaele then made it a seven-point lead when she barged over with two minutes to play.

Needless to say, both coaching staffs will have plenty to say at training but it is a good start for the Blues, who host the powerful Chiefs Manawa next weekend.

Matatū head to Wellington to face the Hurricanes Poua.

Blues 24 (Jaymie Kolose 2, Krysten Cottrell, Tafito Lafaele tries; Cottrell 2 con)

Matatū 17 (Pip Love, Winnie Palamo, Grace Brooker tries; Rosie Kelly con)

HT: 7-0 Matatū