Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues need more of same down south

Steven Luatua of the Blues is tackled during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Force and the Blues. Photo / Getty Images
Steven Luatua of the Blues is tackled during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Force and the Blues. Photo / Getty Images

How do you explain the Blues' comprehensive victory against the Force?

After spluttering through away fixtures for the last two seasons, a mix of invigorated troops and battered test players jumped on a plane for an eight-hour trip to Perth and nailed it.

The Blues got a leg up from a Force side whose narrow channels of attack and lack of vitality contrasted with the rollicking start from the visitors.

That turnaround in results leaves the Blues with a chance of making the playoffs.

Victories against the Crusaders this week and the Chiefs in the last round will be necessary and on the evidence of the side's work in Perth, that is possible.

"It is sudden-death for us," coach John Kirwan said. "They have two lives left, we have none so we have to perform.

"We need to bring it all again this week because there will be backlash but I feel we are peaking at the right time."

There will be nerves from the Crusaders on a range of fronts. They were lethargic against the Hurricanes and coach Todd Blackadder needs to reassess the use of his players.

If Kieran Read is ready to go he has to start and so do Daniel Carter and Owen Franks. They were not switched on from the bench last round and when the trio were summoned, the Crusaders' slide was irreparable.

The Crusaders have to find room for them all from the start and will also hope wing Nemani Nadolo returns in shape from his last month of test rugby with Fiji. Jaded work from fullback Tom Taylor last round may see Colin Slade shift to that role if he is cleared to play after his concussion, with Carter coming in to start in his regular five-eighths role.

The Blues return to training today and need to check the fitness of Piri Weepu and Angus Ta'avao before they settle on the squad to travel south for Saturday's challenge.

Watch: Rugby highlights: Force vs Blues

"I thought we have shown much better performances in our last two games, against the Hurricanes before the test window and now the Force," Kirwan said. "We have got to go down there and do it again."

That sort of breakthrough had a great deal to do with the team's preparation.

"We have been working hard off the field, understanding what we have to do and preparing for that properly," Kirwan said. "We looked to be excited about our work and the way we played in the first 20 minutes at Perth is the sort of Blues rugby I want to see. It will look different for this game but we need that sort of intensity in what we do."

- NZ Herald

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