Fullback Nick Evans scored two tries among 23 points as the Blues beat the Highlanders 40-15 in their Super 14 clash on Saturday.
Report courtesy News24.
Evans, the All Blacks flyhalf signed this week by London club Harlequins, scored the Blues’ first 21 points in a 62-minute cameo which marked his first return appearance on his former home ground, Carisbrook.
The versatile back, who kicked three penalties and two conversions to complement his two first-half tries, played for the Highlanders before rejoining the Blues this year after a three-year absence.
Evans’ prolific performance helped the Blues to a 26-3 halftime lead, securing the win they needed to keep their playoffs hopes alive and wingers Rudi Wulf and Anthony Tuitivake added tries which sealed a vital four-try bonus point.
The five points lifted the Blues from eighth to fourth place on the Super 14 ladder pending the outcome of other matches in the 13th of 14 regular-season rounds.
Auckland faces Wellington in next week’s final round which may decide which of those teams qualifies for the semi-finals.
The Blues needed a bold effort on Saturday to press their semi-final claims and they produced that in the first half, running the ball at an unsteady Highlanders defence.
They edged ahead 9-0 with three Evans penalties but had to wait until the 25th minute for the fullback’s first try as he outpaced the defence pursuing his own kick.
He touched down again in the 32nd by taking advantage of space created by props Tony Woodcock and John Afoa.
Wulf added Auckland’s third try three minutes before halftime but they had to wait until the 22nd minute of the second half before Tuitivake scored the fourth to clinch the bonus point. Evans converted the try and was immediately substituted.
“We talked about it all week. We came down here to do a job, we did it and we’re still in (the competition),” Evans said.
“Our job tonight was (to get) five points. We knew to give ourselves a shot at the title we needed a bit of momentum. We needed five points and got it.”
Otago hit back with second-half tries to Aaron Bancroft and Adam Thompson, closing to 26-15 before Auckland pulled away, with Tuitivake’s try and another to speedster David Smith.
“It’s got to the crunch time in the competition and that win was vital for us,” Blues captain Troy Flavell said.
Auckland 40 (Nick Evans 2, Rudi Wulf, Anthony Tuitivake, David Smith tries; Evans 3 penalties, 2 conversions, Ben Atiga conversion), Otago 15 (Aaron Bancroft, Adam Thompson tries; Mike Delany conversion, penalty). HT, 26-3.Tweet