Blues

Blues carve up colourless Reds

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The Blues bagged the full points on Saturday when they thrashed a dour Reds side 38-13 in Auckland.

Replacement Blues winger Rudi Wulff was in fine form, running in two of his side’s tries, while Troy Flavell was merciless upfront. The Reds however turned in an errant display, marked by ill discipline and a lack of imagination.

In this colour clash, the Blues, right from the start, declared their intentions. Dubbed by Eddie Jones Polynesian basketball players they ran and passed, obviously enjoying themselves. Their whole plan was to get the ball wide and they eventually ran the Reds to destruction.

The Reds also made their intentions from the start as they tried to play at close quarters. But eventually that came apart and their game became scruffy, redeemed from a bigger hiding only by the numerous tackles they made – not quite enough tackles as they missed 25 and conceded four tries, which meant a bonus point for the Blues.

As a game of skill vs muscle, wide vs close, artists vs artisans, creativity vs conservatism, it was a vindication for the game played in Auckland.

In the first half the Reds had the wind and kept things tight enough to lead for a while and go into the break just 13-6 down. They scored a try in the second half, a really fortuitous one as the Blues came to the half-way line and Troy Flavell flipped the ball into the arms of Charlie Fetoai who had a long but easy run through vacant acres to the line. That try made the score 31-13, for the match was then well and truly won and lost, the interest remaining whether the Blues would get the bonus point or not. They did with just two minutes to spare. They had chances to get it earlier though the Reds had only Fetoia’s chance to score a try.

In the first half the penalty count favoured the Reds. In fact the penalty count in the match was an oddity. It ended 13-12 in favour of the Blues which does not seem disproportionate, but in the first half it was 9-4 to the Reds, in the second 9-3 to the Blues – and David Croft earned his second yellow card in successive matches.

The Reds have been having a ghastly run of injuries and started the match without recent casualties – Greg Holmes, Hugh McMenamin and Stephen Moore plus the self-inflicted casualty of Johansson who was cited and suspended. The Blues lost in-form Anthony Tuitavake early in the match when his hamstring gave. He was replaced by Rudi Wulf who grabbed the opportunity to score two tries.

They did better than the Blues at the line-out but the Blues were much the stronger scrum though both scrum penalties went to the Reds. The battle for the tackle ball was about equal though it was an area tightly monitored. The Reds were penalised eight times there, the Blues six.

The Blues scored first when Ben Coutts tackled high and Isa Nacewa goaled. He kicked the close ones, Luke McAlister those from long range. Nacewa missed one. Clinton Schifcofske did all the kicking for the Reds but missed
three.

After missing one, Schifcofske goaled when burly Saimone Taumoepeau went in at the side of a tackle/ruck. Two minutes later he actually put the Reds ahead 6-3 when Derren Witcombe went in at the side. This lead lasted only a very short while.

From the short kick-off with Reds players watching the looping ball with gaping mouths Flavell grabbed it and charged down the middle of the field. Isaia Toeava was on hand to race to the line with speed. From the tackle the referee played advantage and ball went quickly left to Wulf who went over in the corner for his first try, which Nacewa converted.

When Schifcofske played the ball with his hands in a ruck fractionally inside the Reds half, the kicking was entrusted to McAlister who kicked the long goal into the wind.

After this the Reds had a five-metre line-out but lost it and then another attacking line-out but the defence held.

Early in the second half McAlister goaled his second penalty goal. The range was similar to that for his earlier one but this time he was wind assisted.

From the kick-off the Blues started running down the right. From there they swept left and Toeava was racing for the line. On advantage they got the ball back and flicked several dainty passes near the touch-line till Nacewa ran away from touch and scored a try. 18-6 after Nacewa had failed to convert.

After McAlister had goaled another penalty the Blues broke out and sent Daniel Braid on a long run down the left. He had support on both sides but ended in a tackle. Flavell also had a charge but lost the ball in the tackle and Henari Veratau broke out of defence, the Reds’ adventurous moment in the match.

From a line-out, with Croft in the sin bin, the Blues went right. Toeava got beyond Ben Tune and played the ball inside to Wulf who scored his second try. McAlister converted from some way out. 31-6.

Just after this the Blues again countered and it was then that Flavell generouslay presented the Reds with a try. 31-13 with eight minutes to play.

Croft back, the Reds were again penalised at the tackle and the Blues made it into a five-metre line-out. The Reds immediately sacked the catcher and a tackle/ruck thing occurred about six metres from the Reds’ line. The ball was coming back to David Gibson when Flavell, who was in the tackle/ruck, plonked a big hand on the ball, hoisted it and charged straight ahead through an empty space to score the bonus-point try which Nacewa converted.

Man of the Match: There are choices ion the Blues side – Isa Nacewa for the variety and variation he created ion the game, Jerome Kaino and Daniel Braid, busy Derren Witcombe and our Man of the Match Luke McAlister who seemed always able to do more and better than anybody else.

The scorers:

For the Blues:
Tries: Wulff 2, Nacewa, Kaino
Cons: Nacewa 2, McAlister
Pens: McAlister 3, Nacewa

For the Reds:
Tries: Fetoai
Cons: Schifcofske
Pens: Schifcofske 2

Yellow card: David Croft (Reds, 66 – repeated offsides at breakdown)

Teams:

Blues: 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Anthony Tuitavake, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 Steve Devine, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Justin Collins, 5 Troy Flavell (captain), 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau
Replacements: 16 Chris Heard, 17 Nick White, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Angus Macdonald, 20 David Gibson, 21 Sam Tuitupou, 22 Rudi Wulf

Reds: 15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Henari Veratau, 13 Ben Tune, 12 Peter Hynes, 11 Brando Va’alu, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Nic Berry, 8 John Roe (c), 7 David Croft, 6 Mitch Chapman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Ed O’Donoghue, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Ben Coutts
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Herman Hunt, 18 Cam Treloar, 19 Tom McVerry, 20 Will Genia, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Charlie Fetoai

Referee: Willie Roos (South Africa)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Brent Murray (New Zealand)
Television match official: Chris Rooney (New Zealand)


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