Luatua, West, Ranger power the Blues to win

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Lynn McConnell     02 Apr 2016     Getty Images

The South Americans opted to rest several of their top players and left the arena still with only the one win in the competition to date. They attempted to run the ball to victory, but came up against a stout Blues defensive effort and could score only one try to three for the Blues.

It was a welcome relief for the home team who could thank Luatua for some outstanding leadership care of the power of example, while West, after a slow goal-kicking start finished with 19 points from a conversion, four penalty goals and a try that stunned the visitors just before the end of a first half they had dominated.

The Blues also utilised a powerful scrum to take the sting out of the visitors in that department although the loss of prop Nic Mayhew was a disappointing end to his impressive display.

Centre Rene Ranger proved a handful as the Jaguares tried to mount their attacks several times making tackles and effecting turnovers.

Two injections of speed, the first when fullback Lolagi Visinia raced up to claim a Jaguares mid-field high ball, and the second when West ran onto a pass from the grounded Ranger carried the Blues to a half-time lead of 15-6.

Visinia never looked like missing the ball while West demonstrated his electric speed to seize the chance in rapier-like fashion.

For all their own efforts to apply pressure through forward power and quick moving back play the Jaguares lacked execution, something the Blues in the first half at least did not lack.

The bench provided some impetus for the Jaguares and just into the final quarter they got replacement back Gonzalo Bertranou crossed and a fine sideline conversion from replacement fullback Nicolas Sanchez got them back to five points behind 16-21.

The Blues responded with replacement mid-field George Moala just failing to ground the ball over the line after a Ranger grubber kick through. But in subsequent play a penalty was conceded and West extended the margin to eight.

During the first quarter, the Jaguares threw wave after wave of assaults at the Blues line, but for the most part it held and the only points the visitors claimed were two penalty goals to first five-eighths Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias. The Blues lost wing Tevita Li to the sin-bin for repeated infringing.

However, the Blues finally won position and were able to launch plays of their own, looking most dangerous when second five-eighths Piers Francis found gaps on the outside. The first saw him combined with halfback Bryn Hall and centre Rene Ranger in a run that went close to the line.

Then when a penalty was awarded in the Jaguares 22m area the lineout option was taken and they attempted a move around the front of the line between Luatua and hooker James Parsons. But Parsons couldn't control the ball and the Jaguares tried to run the ball from their own line only to lose it themselves.

That provided a chance the Blues didn't miss and after a series of rucks the ball emerged to Parsons who popped a ball to Luatua charging back on the angle and he got over for the try.

Halfback and captain Martin Landajo was a catalyst for much of the incision provided for his side, and he made several telling breaks, but the failure of centre Matias Montero to hold a relatively easy pick-up from a grubber kick towards the Blues line proved costly.

For all the effort the Jaguares put into playing an up tempo game, they looked to lack the stamina to maintain the combination of power, execution and speed for 80 minutes.

The Blues demonstrated a greater capacity for the dogfight and looked much the better for it.

Scorers: Blues 24 (Steven Luatua, Ihaia West tries; West con, 4 pen) Jaguares 16 (Gonzalo Bertranou try; Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias 3 pen; Nicolas Sanchez con). HT: 15-6