Super start for hat-trick man Ioane as Blues crush Rebels
Rieko Ioane underlined his enormous potential with a hat-trick of tries to fire the Auckland Blues to a 56-18 demolition of the Melbourne Rebels in the Super Rugby season-opener on Thursday.
MELBOURNE - Teenage centre Rieko Ioane underlined his enormous potential with a hat-trick of tries to fire the Auckland Blues to a 56-18 demolition of the Melbourne Rebels in the Super Rugby season-opener on Thursday.
The explosive 19-year-old, who made his All Blacks debut on their tour of Europe last November, grabbed an intercept try on the stroke of halftime and touched down twice after the break as the Blues racked up a record score in Australia.
"I think full credit to the boys. First half... there were a bit of first-game jitters," said Ioane, whose 21-year-old brother Akira started at number eight.
"The boys had a huge pre-season so we knew that if we just stuck to our process, something would come about. And we did that and the team was pretty happy."
Pauliasi Manu, Matt Duffie, Augustine Pulu and Melani Nanai also crossed for the visitors in the seven-try rout at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
The Blues were without co-captains Jerome Kaino and James Parsons, and their brilliant inside centre Sonny Bill Williams, but coach Tana Umaga would have been buoyed by the performance of his replacements.
The Rebels were also undermanned after a string of injuries in the lead-up, but they opened the match brightly with a try by captain Nic Stirzaker but the scrumhalf was ruled out of the match after a head-knock shortly after.
Flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop nosed the Rebels in front for a period with a 22nd minute try at the left corner after flanker Jordy Reid charged down a clearing kick from Ihaia West.
But Garden-Bachop missed three consecutive kicks off the tee to kill any momentum the Rebels had.
Tries for fullback Duffie and Ioane, who ran half the length of the field after intercepting a pass, put the Blues 25-15 up at the break and it was one-way traffic from there.
Ioane's second try in the 51st minute was breath-taking, as he feigned a pass out wide, punched through the Rebels' line at midfield and burned off three defenders on his way to scoring.
Akira Ioane set up the hat-trick try 12 minutes later, knocking the ball out of a ruck with his foot before flinging it out wide to his younger brother, who charged over in the corner.