Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: More changes tempting for Blues coach

Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan confirmed he was pleased with Hall's performance, along with the efforts of fellow substitute Hickey. Photo / Richard Robinson
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan confirmed he was pleased with Hall's performance, along with the efforts of fellow substitute Hickey. Photo / Richard Robinson

Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino are poised to restart their Blues careers against the Cheetahs at Eden Park on Saturday, and coach John Kirwan must be tempted to make more than just a double change to his line-up.

Halfback Bryn Hall's performance after he replaced Piri Weepu on 56 minutes in the 39-36 defeat to the Lions at Ellis Park yesterday will have given Kirwan something extra to ponder on his flight home.

Hall, in only his fifth match for the Blues, was superb - he finished off a flowing move for a try in virtually his first touch of the ball and his long break from deep set up Frank Halai's try as the Blues threatened to steal a late victory. He provided a real threat with the ball, something Weepu has yet to manage this season.

Hall ran 96m in possession, second only to Benji Marshall's 111m, the former league player getting through 80 minutes on his starting debut.

The 22-year-old Hall's season was ruined last year due to a broken jaw and glandular fever, and he has shown enough already to suggest he will provide Weepu with plenty of competition for a starting spot providing he stays healthy.

In making several changes to his backline for the Lions match - Simon Hickey, Jackson Willison and Tevita Li making way for Chris Noakes, Pita Akhi and Charles Piutau respectively, with Benji Marshall starting at fullback - Kirwan has shown a willingness to tinker.

Kirwan yesterday confirmed he was pleased with Hall's performance, along with the efforts of fellow substitute Hickey.

Piutau was again strong despite limited opportunities, with Halai also dangerous in the second half. Marshall showed up once the Blues got on top - his try was a solo effort in which he jinked and stepped past several defenders.

Nonu will come into the midfield equation, possibly for Akhi, with Kaino a possibility at No8 alongside flankers Steven Luatua and skipper Luke Braid.

Kirwan said he would receive the results of hooker Keven Mealamu's knee scans this week and the veteran was a possibility for selection.

The two bonus points were eagerly accepted by Kirwan but the Blues should have got more out of their South Africa trip. It was again a case of what might have been - the performance of his backs in the second half papering over a below-par effort from his forwards.

"It's a tough start as we were hoping to come home from South Africa with more points," Kirwan said. "The reality is we've got seven. I think we're ninth on the table, we're hanging in there and now we have two home games, the hard travel for us is over."

Lions 39 (Faf de Klerk, Coutnall Skosan, Coenie van Wyk tries; Marnitz Boshoff 3 cons, 4 pens, 2 dropped goals).

Blues 36 (Charles Piutau, Bryn Hall, Frank Halai, George Moala, Benji Marshall tries; Chris Noakes 2 cons, pen, Simon Hickey 2 cons).

Halftime: 17-0

- APNZ

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