Blues keep alive Super 14 play-off hopes

A bonus-point try in the final minute has kept the Auckland Blues’ Super 14 semifinal hopes flickering with a free-wheeling 35-22 win over the Queensland Reds on Friday.

Scrumhalf Taniela Moa reached out to plant the ball on the tryline for the Blues’ fourth try to come away with a maximum five points and move to 31 points, just one point outside the top four midway through the 11th round.

Auckland still have control of their play-off destiny. They need to win their remaining matches away to the Otago Highlanders next week and at home to the Wellington Hurricanes to play in the semifinals.

The three-time southern hemisphere provincial champions looked in danger of defeat after Queensland stormed back from 20-7 down at half-time to hit the front 22-20 with 20 minutes left.

But tries from replacement lock Kurtis Haiu and Moa clinched the Blues’ second consecutive victory in Brisbane and pushed the Blues to a winning 6-5 record this season.

Blues coach David Nucifora ended an emotional week on a high after announcing this week that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season to return home to Australia.

“It wasn’t pretty but it was effective and we’re on the plane home with the five points,” said Blues skipper Troy Flavell, who was replaced by Haiu in the 56th minute after injuring his left thigh.

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves with conceding penalties and losing the ball, but we’ll build some confidence on that and hopefully have a positive preparation for the Highlanders next week.

“We’ve done our mathematics and think we could slip into fourth place with two more wins and control our destiny for the play-offs.”

Auckland scored twice through impressive flanker Jerome Kaino and flyhalf Isa Nacewa to lead by 13 points at the interval as Queensland committed countless errors.

But the home side fought back to hit the front after tries by lock Van Humphries and a runaway 70m try by winger Peter Hynes, before the Blues regained control inside the final quarter.

Fullback Nick Evans was steady with his goal kicking, landing three conversions and three penalties in his seven attempts, while Reds’ counterpart Clinton Schifcofske landed two conversions and a penalty from five shots.—AFP

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