Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Tana Umaga: We will be targeted at set-piece time

Head Coach Tana Umaga of the Blues looks on prior to the round two Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.
Head Coach Tana Umaga of the Blues looks on prior to the round two Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.

Up one weekend, down the next - the Blues are settling uncomfortably into their traditional inconsistent routine, and, while coach Tana Umaga says his players would have learned a lot from their dispiriting defeat to the Crusaders, opposition teams would have too.

Umaga's team were outclassed up front by a Crusaders' pack which was technically excellent in the 28-13 win, but, just as worrying for the Blues is that the home side appeared to want the victory more too.

The Blues will quickly have to re-discover the fire which propelled them to victory over the Highlanders at Eden Park in round one when they return there against the Hurricanes on Friday night because every other team in this competition will see them as a soft touch at set piece time, something Umaga admitted today.

Asked if there would be extra work on the scrum this week ahead of the Hurricanes' visit, Umaga said: "There's no doubt about that.

The lineout as well. Our set piece didn't perform as well as we would have liked and I'm sure that's where we'll be targeted from now on."

Umaga, who saw his team lose five lineouts on their own throw and concede a penalty try from a 5m scrum, will have learned a fair bit about new halfback Billy Guyton and first-five Matt McGahan too following his decision to send Bryn Hall and Ihaia West to the bench after the victory over the Highlanders.

The new pair found it difficult on the back foot in Christchurch, as did all of the Blues' backs, but Umaga backed his selections which were criticised at the time and after the match, saying it was about giving his wider squad opportunities.

"What it shows is that people are passionate about knowing what we're doing here," he said of the fallout. "Obviously we were on a bit of a crest of a wave there. The pre-season was great and gave us confidence and we created ... some interest in what we were doing. Obviously the first game was great. You have to be able to back that up. We've got a big squad, we have to keep those guys interested and we believe that guys deserved opportunity and we want to keep doing that."

Asked what else he learned about the competition, rookie coach Umaga replied: "You don't win it in the first game and you definitely don't lose it in the second. Those are the two big things."

Umaga also knows a fair bit about the Hurricanes, having become one of Wellington's favourite sons while playing for the franchise for 12 years and he realises Chris Boyd's side, beaten finalists last year and looking at a three-loss start to their season, will be desperate.

"They're a side that can create opportunities from anything," Umaga said. "They have champions across the field... as we've learned, they're not losing by much - last week [against Highlanders] they improved - and they will come up this week looking to topple us over.

"We have to do the simple things well and back our structures. It's how we react to the pressure. That's the biggest learning for our players."

If nothing else, the Blues could take a leaf out of the Crusaders' book, the southerners reacting well to the first-round defeat to the Chiefs at home.

Umaga said: "Obviously they weren't too happy with their performance of the week before so they came out pretty motivated and we weren't able to withstand that. We'll be better for it, no doubt."

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 30 Sep 2016 12:18:28 Processing Time: 500ms