Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Braid's hurt shoulder blow after thriller win

Luke Braid tackled by the Waratahs' Dave Dennis. Photo / Getty Images
Luke Braid tackled by the Waratahs' Dave Dennis. Photo / Getty Images

Having made one big step forward with their win over the Waratahs, the Blues' next stride could be checked slightly with the news that captain Luke Braid's injured shoulder is likely to keep him out of the next game against the Reds.

If Braid doesn't play at Eden Park on Friday, and coach John Kirwan said yesterday he would know more in 24 hours but was already preparing to be without him, it will be a big blow after the positivity that returned with the 21-13 victory over the Waratahs.

The openside flanker has been a standout for his team this season - starting every match apart from the defeat against the Brumbies in Canberra when he was a second-half replacement.

He is one of his team's busiest ball carriers and easily tops the tackle count. Fortunately, Kirwan has the increasingly influential Jerome Kaino to count on in both these areas, and Brendon O'Connor, Braid's likely replacement, is also an excellent defender.

Kirwan will also be calling on the experienced Keven Mealamu and Ma'a Nonu to continue their leadership roles. Both were excellent against the Waratahs and the Blues coach will be desperate to maintain the fortress qualities of Eden Park against the unpredictable Reds.

While the Hurricanes looked good in beating the Reds 35-21 at the Cake Tin, the men from Brisbane were their own worst enemy at times - a bit like their countrymen the Waratahs - and another victory is well within the Blues' grasp. After that looms an entirely different challenge - a match against the Chiefs in New Plymouth awaits.

"The attitude [against Waratahs] is something we need to replicate," Kirwan said. "Ma'a, Kevvy and Jerome really stepped up and they drove the team and that's important. It's important that they continue to do that."

The performances of try-scorers Lolagi Visinia and Francis Saili were more reasons for Kirwan to be cheerful, as was the effort shown by 21-year-old lock Patrick Tuipulotu, who time and again ran into a light-blue brick wall. In the end he was causing a fair bit of damage against a pack with two heavyweights in Kane Douglas and Will Skelton.

"Patrick really stepped up into that [physical challenge]. He knew what he was up against and he had some big men hitting him. He matched them, if not dominated, and that's a pretty big call for such a young man.

"He's a little bit like Simon [Hickey]. We have to protect him and balance it out, which is always difficult when you're under the pump. He had a few weeks off because of an injury so he's still quite fresh but we do need to keep an eye on him. But he's stepping up every week, which is fantastic. If he's happy and enjoying it and has a smile on his face, that's normally a pretty good indicator."

The one main area of concern could be the lineout. The scrum wobbles appeared straightened out but now the forwards have another project after losing their first two attacking lineouts and letting the visitors off the hook.

"We missed a couple of critical ones and we just have to nail those off which will help us create more pressure," Kirwan said. "I thought the scrum was a real battle and it was probably even there and then I thought we put quite a bit of pressure on their lineout."


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