Cape Town - Sonny Bill Williams, a devout Muslim who missed last week's Super Rugby round to support Christchurch Muslims following the terror attack, returned to the Auckland Blues with a hero off-load in a 24-9 win over the Western Stormers on Saturday.
AS IT HAPPENED: Blues 24-9 Stormers
With the match in the balance and 15 minutes to play, Williams broke the game open with a trademark miracle pass to put Otere Black over the line.
It opened up an eight-point lead for the Blues, and although they were reduced to 14 men for the final 12 minutes when Tanielu Tale'a was sent off for taking out Dillyn Leyds in the air, the Stormers were unable to make up the deficit.
Instead, knowing they had to take risks to score twice in the closing minutes, the Stormers made errors which allowed Rieko Ioane to score a bonus-point third try for the Blues.
It left both sides with three wins from six matches and the Blues, who have been under-achievers in recent years, have now won three games in a row for the first time in three years.
"It doesn't stop there though. We go back to the drawing board on Monday and get ready for the Waratahs," captain Patrick Tuipulotu said, adding that despite the red card he was pleased with his side's discipline.
"We kept our cool. At times we got frustrated, when they got the ball back, but I'm pretty happy with the way we came through.
However, Stormers captain Siya Kolisi was far from happy.
"Our execution was not good. We started off playing some good rugby but we didn't score points and our first-time tackles were disappointing," he said.
Despite their Springbok-laden pack, the Stormers departed from their usual forward dominated game and attempted to run the ball at every opportunity.
But in a game that never rose to great heights, they were let down by handling errors and had to rely on three penalties by Jean-Luc du Plessis for their points.
The Blues lost four of 10 lineouts and were out-muscled at ruck and maul time. They did not hit the front until the 30-minute mark when Ioane came off his wing to punch through the middle of the backline to set Tele'a on a 60-metre run to the line.
Black was successful with the conversion and a later penalty to have the Blues ahead 10-6 at half-time.
Du Plessis narrowed the gap to 10-9 with his third penalty just after the resumption and the Stormers were pushing hard to regain the lead when Williams' pass for Black's try gave the Blues the buffer they needed.
The Stormers remain 3rd in the South African Conference.
Tries: Tanielu Tele'a, Oteri Black, Rieko Ioane
Conversions: Black (3)
Penalties: Jean-Luc du Plessis
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tanielu Tele’a, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Substitutes: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Sonny Bill Williams
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 SP Marais