Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues show impressive resolve in opening win

Blake Gibson steamrolls Ben Smith on his way to scoring a try. Photo / Getty
Blake Gibson steamrolls Ben Smith on his way to scoring a try. Photo / Getty

Determination and patience are qualities Blues coach Tana Umaga liked most about his side's opening Super rugby victory.

He could have used willpower and perseverance--- aspects which help separate quality sides from others when the mental stress goes up another notch.

That's not to say the Blues are in that quality bracket yet. We simply don't know after one game in the expanded competition.

However they showed a resolve against the Highlanders which has been a flickering passenger for too long in the last decade.

Three times the Blues were behind and twice they drew level before they held on to a final quarter lead to deny the hard-charging champions. The Blues weathered the counter-punches from the visitors and had the strength to deliver their own knockout blow.

Coaches look for a range of factors when they select their sides. Most of the necessary elements are obvious like power, fitness and speed but it's the intangible touches about the players' resolve that coaches have to glean.

Judging that character takes time and it may not be apparent during a squad's training and preparation for a series. Often you hear about players who train like Tarzan and play like Jane or vice versa.

The Highlanders put the Blues through the ringer on many fronts. Without plenty of spirit and courage, the Eden Park hosts would have faded and hopes of an initial victory would have evaporated.

The Blues will have a list with many fix-it memos. That's the nature of professional rugby but they know they can challenge the best as long as they work as hard throughout the series as they did at Eden Park.

Five things to admire in the Blues-Highlanders match which opened the expanded Super rugby series.

1. Blake Gibson's acceleration and drive to a great try
2. The way Teihorangi Walden held the ball out in two hands to confuse the defence for his try.
3. Waisake Naholo's extraordinary pace and leap to claim his first try for the year.
4. Minimal scrum fuss and resets. What a treat.
5. Inventive heads-up crosskick play from Ihaia West to create a try.

Five things to make you scratch your head.

1. Players cribbing on the offside line at rucks.
2. Late tackle ruling against Gibson on Ben "Hollywood" Smith.
3. The tackle-release still seems far too contentious.
4. Did the Blues subs bench make the difference?
5. Was Osborne's crime really worth a yellow card?

- NZ Herald

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