First take: ABs pair add spark to Blues' big win

By Kris Shannon

The returns to the starting XV of Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu added spark to the Blues' win over the Highlanders. Photo / Getty
The returns to the starting XV of Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu added spark to the Blues' win over the Highlanders. Photo / Getty

For all the talk of a Kiwi's potential impact on the Blues, it's hardly surprising the addition of a pair of All Blacks provided a big boost.

While Benji Marshall was again reduced to a cameo role in the Blues' win over the Highlanders tonight, Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino were the players who lit up Eden Park.

Read: Blues impress in big win

Nonu and Kaino were both making their first start of the season and both men provided equal parts spark and solidity in the Blues' 30-12 victory.

Who would have guessed: adding two of the best players from the All Blacks' World Cup-winning campaign makes a team better. Hardly revelatory but it wasn't a sure thing, either.

Nonu has been one of the most frustrating players in Super Rugby no matter for which franchise he was featuring. Seemingly unwanted by New Zealand clubs for much of the offseason, the second five-eighth has consistently failed to replicate his All Blacks efforts at Super level.

Perhaps that can change this season. It was only one game but Nonu linked well with Simon Hickey on his inside and repeatedly drew the attention of multiple defenders, creating space for the Blues to exploit elsewhere.

He owed his try almost exclusively to the work of Bryn Hall - who thrived in the No 9 jersey while Piri Weepu watched on from a corporate box - but Nonu's mere presence gives the opposition much to think about.

Kaino will also occupy the minds of other teams after tonight's efforts, a partial answer to the question of whether he can regain his form of old after two years in Japan.

It can't be a coincidence the Blues were much improved at the breakdown and in the scrum, losing none at the set piece after coming into the contest with a mere 67 per cent success rate.

The blindside flanker led his side with eight tackles and, together with Nonu, gave the Blues a completely different complexion. Who'd have thunk it?


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