Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Blues need to back up sizzling victory: coach

A win over the Crusaders and Kirwan’s men have playoffs chance.

Steven Luatua was a standout in the onslaught against the Force in Perth. Photo / Getty Images
Steven Luatua was a standout in the onslaught against the Force in Perth. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues' stunning victory over the Force in Perth, which made a mockery of their woeful away record of the past two years, will mean little if they fail to back it up against the Crusaders, says coach John Kirwan.

The six-try 40-14 victory, in which they earned a four-try bonus point after only 18 minutes, keeps them in with a chance of making the playoffs. It was a stunning win which every one of Kirwan's men played their part in securing, the Force responding after the visitors racked up 33 unanswered points.

The margin of victory could have been greater, so dominant were the forwards led by Keven Mealamu, Luke Braid, Jerome Kaino and recalled Steven Luatua, and backs, with Ihaia West, Ma'a Nonu and Lolagi Visinia in the ascendancy.

In order to lessen the impact on his All Blacks, Kirwan withdrew Mealamu, Kaino and Nonu in the second half. A broken nose for prop Angus Ta'avao meant Tony Woodcock was busier than Kirwan would have liked.

This week of preparation, which will be cut short after their return from Western Australia, will be crucial. A match against a wounded Crusaders side in Christchurch awaits on Saturday. Another victory and, against all the odds, Kirwan's men are in with a real show.

For Kirwan, backing up this victory at nib Stadium, where his team completely tore the home side apart, is the challenge he will ask his team to meet.

"We haven't gone on a roll for a long time - winning games in a row," he said.

"Winning that Hurricanes game [before the June test break] was a really good one for us. It was important that we keep that energy and enthusiasm going and get some consistency.

"I think that's let us down this year. We need to back up this performance and that will be our catch cry this week. It will be a hugely different game this week."

The Blues last won away from home on February 23, 2013; a 34-20 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington in their first competition match under Kirwan. It promised so much but what followed was an away streak consistent for only one thing - failure.

Now, after 13 away losses, the Blues have, as Kirwan described it, got the monkey off their backs.

If the Blues play with the confidence and skill they did on Saturday night, their two remaining opponents of the regular season - the Crusaders and Chiefs - will be pushed to their absolute limits.

Asked what was different about the week of preparation for the Force, which, if anything, should have been disrupted by the comings and goings of the All Blacks and those players who won the Singapore World Cup 10s competition, Kirwan replied: "Energy and enthusiasm. There's been a real momentum shift I think in the last six weeks, with some real good work going in off the field.

"Our preparation is getting better and better. I think that's been the most important thing.

"We've just got to keep working hard. We've got that monkey off our back. We've got to put in an 80-minute performance now. We were very good in patches last night but we were a bit sloppy at times."

Final run-in

Waratahs (48 points): v Highlanders (h), v Reds (a)
Sharks (45): v Cheetahs (a), v Stormers (a)
Crusaders (42): v Blues (h), v Highlanders (h)
Highlanders (42): v Waratahs (a), v Crusaders (a)
Hurricanes (41): v Chiefs (a), bye
Brumbies (40): bye, v Force (h)
Force (36): v Reds (h), v Brumbies (a)
Blues (36): v Crusaders (a), v Chiefs (h)
Chiefs (36): v Hurricanes (h), v Blues (a)


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