Super Rugby Pacific: Blues overrun Queensland Reds to extend winning streak to 11 games

Winger Caleb Clarke, and replacements Bryce Heems and Sione Vikena have each scored try doubles, as the Blues overwhelmed Queensland Reds 53-26 to extend their lead atop the Super Rugby Pacific standings.

The Eden Park visitors scored on halftime to close within 22-14 at the break, but the home side broke the contest open within minutes of a tricky restart that saw fullback Stephen Perofeta shape to kick, then hand the ball to first-five Beauden Barrett, who changed direction of the kickoff.

Immediately on the front foot, Barrett provided the final pass for Clarke to score and moments later crossed himself, when Perofeta perfectly weighted a kick to the goal area for his teammate to chase. Now ahead by 18 points, the Aucklanders were never again at risk, running in eight tries for a valuable bonus point.

Blues celebrate Stephen Perofeta's try against Reds
Blues celebrate Stephen Perofeta's try against Reds. Photo credit: Photosport

Since their last-gasp season-opening loss to the Hurricanes, they have now won 11 straight and hold a seven-point advantage at the head of the competition ladder with two weeks remaining in the regular season.  

The Blues lost All Blacks midfielder Rieko Ioane in the opening minutes with a hamstring twinge, but Heem proved an able substitute, opening the scoring in the 14th minute and added another before the break.

Clarke had his team out to 17-0 with the try of the match, after the forwards turned the ball at a breakdown in their own 22 and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck burst upfield.

Locks Tom Robinson and James Tucker carried the move into the Reds 22, Heem slipped just short, but Clarke was next on the scene to dive over.  

Both Vikena's tries were copybook hooker affairs from rolling mauls off lineout wins near the tryline, while Perofeta accumulated 18 points to emerge as the competition's leading scorer.

The Reds were bolstered by the return of Wallabies veteran James O'Connor at first-five, while winger Suliasi Vunivalu proved a handful and fullback Jock Campbell also recorded a brace of tries, but they've now lost four straight to slide down the standings.

The Blues return across the Tasman to face top-ranked Aussies ACT Brumbies next Saturday.

Blues 53 (Heem 2, Barrett, Vikena 2, Perofeta & Clarke 2 tries, Perofeta penalty & 5 conversions) Reds 26 (Vunivalu, Campbell 2 & Smith tries, O'Connor 3 conversions)

Join us at 4:30pm Sunday for live updates of the Chiefs v Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby Pacific clash