MELBOURNE • Rising star Rieko Ioane scored a hat-trick of tries, as the Auckland Blues demolished the Melbourne Rebels 56-18 to launch the new Super Rugby season in Melbourne yesterday.
The Blues blasted the hapless Rebels by seven tries to two, with fly-half Ihaia West kicking six conversions and two penalties to pass 300 career points for the New Zealand side.
The game marked the Blues' first victory in three trips to Melbourne and it was their biggest winning score in Australia. Both sides did not make the play-offs last year.
It was an eye-catching performance from 19-year-old Ioane, who made his Test debut for the All Blacks against Italy in Rome last November and heralded the arrival of a new promising star in Super Rugby this season.
Ioane, who graduated to Super Rugby from New Zealand's Sevens team, scored an intercept try, another beating three tackles and a third backing up his brother Akira, 21, to take the final pass.
The Blues have often been their own worst enemy in the past with their inconsistency but under the coaching of All Black great Tana Umaga, they were more clinical in their execution, outscoring the Rebels 31-3 in the second half.
PUTTING IN A GOOD SHIFT
It's something we've been working very hard on during the pre-season to get those consistent performances and I thought we got that tonight.
JIMMY TUPOU, Auckland Blues skipper, on being clinical and carrying out their game plan against the Melbourne Rebels.
"It's something we've been working very hard on during the pre-season to get those consistent performances and I thought we got that tonight," skipper Jimmy Tupou said.
The Blues, who led 25-15 at half-time, were helped along in the second half by the disjointed Rebels, who missed 20 tackles.
Nothing went right for the Rebels in their first home match of the new season before a sparse crowd on a Thursday night scheduling experiment in Melbourne.
They started brightly but lost skipper Nic Stirzaker after he failed a concussion test from a head knock, not long after scoring the Rebels' first try in the seventh minute.
The Rebels also lost experienced centre Mitch Inman, forcing a late backline reshuffle.
The Blues will test their early-season promise against the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton next week, while the Rebels are away to the defending champions Hurricanes in Wellington.
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