Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Blues hitting all the high notes

Blues halfback Bryn Hall attempts to break the tackle of Reds prop James Slipper last night. Hall had a strong game. Photo / Getty Images
Blues halfback Bryn Hall attempts to break the tackle of Reds prop James Slipper last night. Hall had a strong game. Photo / Getty Images

The first thing Blues coach John Kirwan does when he wakes up this morning might be to check whether last night's Super Rugby game in Auckland really happened.

Was it a dream or wasn't it? Once he has established that it wasn't, that his side really did play with that skill, intelligence, excitement and commitment to smash the Reds into the turf of their Eden Park fortress, he must work on how to repeat this sort of form away from home.

This was a masterclass from the Blues, a five-try bonus-point victory which rockets them into the top six of the competition and brought back memories of the glory days of old. If they turn in another abject performance in New Plymouth against the Chiefs next weekend, though, the disappointment among the supporters of the Blues will be all the more acute.

The Blues are so difficult to beat at home they really should be higher up the table than they are.

Their last defeat at Eden Park was to eventual champions the Chiefs in the final round-robin match of last year. This year they have won all five at home, but the flip side is that they have lost off their away matches.

The pressure must come on this week to maintain this momentum, because the excitement among the Blues players was palpable last night. In this mood they will feel they can beat anyone.

Among Kirwan's players, Ma'a Nonu deserves first mention because he was at the heart of just about everything good the Blues did.

Nonu left the field after 61 minutes, replaced by Ihaia West (who scored a memorable 50m try on debut late in the match) but in that time Nonu set up three tries, demoralising the Reds with his power, passing and footwork.

The Reds had nothing like the All Blacks midfielder in their line-up. Quade Cooper jinked and jived during his 100th match for the Reds, but it was mostly behind the advantage line.

It was Nonu's head fake and long pass which set up Jackson Willison's try, his grubber kick under the posts which led directly to Lolagi Visinia's and his powerful surge, along with some excellent work from Frank Halai and Charles Piutau, which was contributed to Tom Donnelly's.

The excellent Bryn Hall scored the Blues' other try and it was a good reward for a halfback who is becoming a real attacking weapon for Kirwan.

There was a real commitment on defence, too, the Reds getting over the line through prop Ben Daley after prop Tony Woodcock was sinbinned for lashing out at Reds loose forward Eddie Quirk, with captain James Horwill also going over late.

Woodcock's departure was a fair enough call, probably, but the decision by referee Nick Briant to only sin bin Reds prop James Slipper for a dangerous tip tackle on No8 Peter Saili probably wasn't. Saili, dropped on to his neck and shoulder area by Slipper long after he had passed the ball, was put into a perilous position.

This weekend will be about the positives for the Blues, though, until they pack their bags for their next away assignment.


Blues (J. Willison, L. Visinia, B. Hall, T. Donnelly, I. West tries; S. Hickey 3 pen 4 con, West con). Reds (B. Daley, J. Horwill tries; Q. Cooper 2 con).
Halftime: 20-0.

- NZ Herald

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