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

Tana Umaga: The weight is off our backs

Teammates congratulate Tevita Li of Blues for his bonus point try against the Kings. Photo / Getty
Teammates congratulate Tevita Li of Blues for his bonus point try against the Kings. Photo / Getty

It wasn't the performance coach Tana Umaga was looking for but the Blues' victory over the Kings in Port Elizabeth this morning has struck an important mental blow which he believes will help his team hugely.

Importantly, the 34-18 win came with a bonus point, although Blues' supporters, who have waited two years to see their team win away from home, had to be patient here as well, wing Tevita Li going over for the crucial try five minutes after the final hooter.

The five competition points following the defeats this weekend of New Zealand conference rivals the Chiefs and Hurricanes - neither of whom picked up a point in losing to the Highlanders and Sharks respectively - have come at just the right time for the Blues, who will believe they are still in the playoffs hunt.

More importantly, the win dispelled the hoodoo which has been clinging to them since June 2014 when they beat the Force in Perth.

"That's been something that'd been talked about and we've been reminded about for a long time so to get that off our backs is good - and to get a bonus point is even better," Umaga said.

"We've put that to bed and we've got to focus on other things. That's not just outside, it's also inside. We talk it about it a lot here too. Sometimes we talk about it that much it becomes more of an issue than it should be so to finally put that to bed is good."

The Kings were willing opposition despite a porous first-half defence which saw Melani Nanai score two tries from attacking lineouts in four minutes. They missed 19 tackles in that first 40 minutes which allowed the Blues to go to the break 19-10 ahead but, despite playing in front of a pitifully small crowd at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, there was no waving of the white flag.

They pushed to the end - and came within striking distance at 22-18 with 20 minutes remaining - only for the Blues to ease away again.

Umaga said: "It was a lot tighter than we would've liked but as we've shown in previous games our ability to hang in there and comeback is probably the most consistent part of our game. The concern for us is we can't rely on that."

The Blues' next assignment is the Lions at Johannesburg's Ellis Park, a much taller order, but Umaga's men will have taken plenty of confidence from their rare victory away from Auckland.

"We're thinking if we play anywhere like we did tonight against the Lions then we won't get the result we're looking for," Umaga said.

- NZ Herald

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 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 24 Feb 2017 23:19:18 Processing Time: 556ms