Rugby: We have to move on from erratic patterns, says Lam

By Wynne Gray

Pat Lam. Photo / Richard Robinson
Pat Lam. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Blues have gambled many times in recent years without enough reward.

But in a thunderous start to the Super 15, captain Keven Mealamu rolled the dice once more against the Crusaders at Eden Park and claimed the treasure.

That prize was an invaluable four points for victory, a morale-boosting start for their next three overseas matches and evidence of the standards they need to emulate in the rest of the series.

"We have to move on from some of our erratic patterns, even in the little things we do," coach Pat Lam said.

"Everyone needs to be accountable, we have to set the bar higher."

Those pledges started on Saturday night when the Blues decided on a liquor ban even after their blood-pumping 24-22 win against the Crusaders. They also agreed on a casual but uniform dress code for their foray to South Africa and Australia.

"For example we all wanted comfortable footwear but that had to be black jandals, not a mixture of sports shoes or something else," Lam said.

Similarly the team had shown a uniform dedication to back up Mealamu. He always set the standards, he played with relentless conviction but needed more lieutenants to match his quality.

Mealamu was front and centre of much of the energy from the time he whooped with delight as he led his team on to the park to the finish where blood oozed from a head wound as television beamed his pleasure to global audiences.

The Blues had slain the competition giants, turning down a chance to draw the game with a penalty shot 10 minutes from time, in favour of a lineout maul from which Mealamu rammed himself across the tryline.

The high rollers claimed the jackpot. It was only the first step in this season's Super schedule but it felt like a giant stride for the Blues.

"This is a massive boost for our confidence and belief," Lam said. "They were still calm in the changing room at halftime [down 6-19], they had clarity, they knew they did not need to throw it round all over the place but they needed to keep working hard for each other."

The Blues have delivered an unsteady list of results since the last 2003 title triumph, a yo-yo chart of wins and losses for coaches Peter Sloane, David Nucifora and now Lam. Under Lam's command the Blues have had 19 wins and 19 defeats.

But even though they were well adrift on the halftime scoreboard on Saturday, Lam was confident of a second-spell revival.

"Our methods were going well. I also saw the attitude I wanted to see from the guys. They were doing the work and just hadn't got the reward.

"They showed a lot of commitment across the field and at the breakdown. For instance after one lineout I saw Ali [Williams] take off and get in a good position and while he did not get the ball he was there ready.

"We worked well in the structures we wanted and all of those things I saw allowed me to be calm when I was talking through things at halftime."

The Blues stopped over in Sydney last night, heading for Durban today and their next contest against the Sharks. Utility back Luke McAlister is with the 26-strong group after being cleared from concussion while Matt Luamanu, Ash Dixon and Winston Stanley have been rerouted into the Blues development squad who are also playing games in the Republic.

After the opening win, Lam had four hours' sleep then rose to review the Blues' victory and sort out tactics for their second game.

"It gave me a rough idea of how we want to play. I saw the Sharks too and that helps a lot."

The Blues might need to use their bench more in the sweltering humidity in Durban after the lengthy air travel from New Zealand.

"It is important that we nail the right gameplan and that we have enough gas left in the tank," Lam said of the week ahead.

- NZ Herald

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