Reds win in Auckland to keep alive title defence


Digby Ioane returned from a five-week ban to celebrate his 50th game for Queensland with a try in the second minute, while team mates Luke Morahan and Dom Shipperley also crossed on a drizzly night at Auckland's Eden Park.

After charging to a 12-0 lead in the first eight minutes, the Reds were held to 15-8 at halftime, but their well-marshalled defence put paid to a second-half fightback by the Blues, who slumped to their eighth loss in nine matches.

"It was really important we came here with a win and that's what we focused on," Reds captain James Horwill said in a pitchside interview.

"Not all of it was perfect but we came with the right attitude and got the result we were looking for."

The Reds' win kept them in the hunt for top spot in the Australian conference and an automatic playoff berth with just over half the season remaining in the southern hemisphere provincial competition.

The injury-ravaged Blues have endured a nightmare season despite an off-season recruiting blitz that snared prized All Black backs Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu.

The Pat Lam-coached Blues were condemned to chasing the Reds for the entire night after conceding a soft early try set up by a deft kick to the left corner by fly-half Ben Lucas.

Receiver Rob Simmons was stopped a metre before the line but Ioane, playing outside centre instead of his usual spot on the wing, snatched the ball out of the ruck and burrowed over for the Reds' first score.

Winger Morahan strolled over for their second try four minutes later as the Reds punished a shambolic Blues defence.

Luke Braid hit back for the Blues with a try in the 26th minute, breaking off a half-hearted maul to duck inside, but that was to be his team's only five-pointer for the night as they blew a series of promising drives in the second half with handling errors and penalties.

Winger Shipperley profited from a sublime, looping pass from playmaker Will Genia to canter over at the right-hand corner and give the Reds a 20-8 lead four minutes after the break.

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe missed a penalty kick, with just over 20 minutes left, that would have brought the Blues within a converted try, and the watertight Reds defence brooked no further addition to the scoreboard.

"We're just lacking the detail," Braid said. "We just played too much in our own just can't play that way."

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