He would have been a big man on the dance floor, Mike Tamoaieta. The former Blues prop put all his moves on show last year, in the pre-season Brisbane 10s competition, when he took the ball from 30 metres out and jinked and jived his way to the tryline, bursting away from would-be tacklers, selling a dummy so hilariously massive it sent one defender in completely the wrong direction.

And then, as he charged the posts, long hair flying, upper body thundering forwards, feet twinkling beneath like he was dancing on air, Tamoaieta found the time and the presence of mind to raise one arm high and thrust his finger to the skies.

Yee-hah. Suck on that you slinky backs. You glamour boys. I'm a prop.

Mike Tamoaieta, aged 23, died suddenly last week. As so many have said these last few days, we're gonna miss him.


Fans live for those moments. Clearly, from that gesture with the jubilant finger, players do too. So what has possessed Blues coach Leon MacDonald to banish them from the game? I figure he'd probably like some advice, so here goes.

Everyone knows you don't win or lose just in those moments. Teams need to hold together long tough stretches of patterned play, especially on defence. But the challenge is to find the balance: to get those patterns invincibly strong and also to unleash the opportunist brilliance.

To remember the team contains players of audacious confidence, guys who scored half the tries in their schoolboy teams and now back themselves to do the same as professional players.

That's why we watch. Remember, rugby is a spectator sport and if it stops being that it will die. Graham Henry knew it and so does Steve Hansen: they created teams that could win by staying tough and unleashing the brilliance. Every top team in the world learned it from them and now they all do it.

It's what the Jaguares did to the Blues yesterday and it's why they won.

You think it's better to win tough than lose pretty? Notice the problem with that? Teams that know only the tough don't win any longer. Even the Crusaders have learned it. Rugby has moved on.

Mike Tamoaieta scores the try that thrilled a big chunk of the rugby world.
Mike Tamoaieta scores the try that thrilled a big chunk of the rugby world.

Sigh. We are still the hopeful. We believe in Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams and TJ Faiane. We believe what Herald rugby writer Patrick McKendry wrote before yesterday's game, that left wing Rieko Ioane and fullback Melani Nanai are "two of the more dangerous backs in the competition", whose presence in the team means "there is likely to be a sense of excitement building". We are the excitables. Or we want to be.

Ioane and Nanai both made early breaks in the game and that was that. It was as if MacDonald had sent down a message: cut that out.


The Blues had the ball for 66 per cent of the time. They carried it for 452 metres, against the Jaguares' 301 metres. But the only try they scored came from an intercept. The Blues got close many times but did not convert any of their structured possession into tries.

For nearly all the time they had the ball, they kept it in the forwards. Nine-man rugby is what it was.

Hooker James Parsons said before the game, as if this was a whole game plan: "We need to dent them up front and go through them and then play on top of them and get in behind their defensive line." Turned out the Jaguares knew how to absorb that sort of unimaginative pressure all day.

It should not be a surprise that the team with most of the possession lost the game. That's pretty typical. Teams that try and try and get nowhere, they run out of ideas, and determination, and then they just run out of puff.

And meanwhile, the super-organised defenders wait for their moment and pounce. The Jaguares sent their star wing, who has never won a world rugby award like Rieko Ioane, in for two tries. He did it, spectacularly, because his team kept creating opportunities for him and because he ran around the defenders and made them look ordinary.

Ioane can do that and so can Nanai. The new kid, 19-year-old winger Tanielu Tele'a, is only in the team because he can do that. So how about letting them?

Meanwhile, MacDonald was up in the coaches' box, frozen, looking like a man who knows he's about to get clubbed from behind and all he can do is wait for the pain.

Is it more manly or something, to play like this?

They're a good team, the Blues. They put in a lot of crunching tackles in that game. Tom Robinson, red hair streaming, played as he always does, like a Viking warrior, and it's great to watch.

They're back home next week, in Albany, playing the Sunwolves, who just thrashed the Chiefs in Hamilton. For the Blues, turns out this will be the game to set their true measure.

Albany is the home ground of Mike Tamoaieta. If we fill the stands, will they honour him with a whole lot of jinking and jiving for the tryline? Imagine it.