Brumbies

Super14 Opener Blues vs Hurricanes

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Super 14 opener, Where it all began at the Garden of Eden.


So it was then that the two teams that contested the very first super 12 match ten years ago met each other in the very first of super 14. With both sides fielding strong combinations a titanic struggle was in the offing. To look at the teams on paper there was a wealth of talent with 24 current or former all blacks to take the field.


Indeed, a team could have been selected that included no Crusaders personnel (Carter, Mauger, Gear, Tuiali’I, McCaw, Jack, Feek, et al) that would quite easily have replicated the grand slam feats of this seasons northern hemisphere tour.


Unfortunately for The Blues rugby is never played on paper. The Blues defence looked fragile and uncoordinated with both Tasesa Lavea and Ben Atiga looking to be marking outside in while the rest of the line were marking inside out. The Hurricanes have a loose forward combination that will be the envy of other franchises as the competition develops, barring injury.


The raw power of Collins is a sight to behold, having just been voted the most feared player of the competition by Australian players, (which means very little really as we’ve seen how soft they were in recent times) he employed it to his teams benefit, making many line breaks to set away the broken play that is acknowledged as a strength in the capital franchise. He was rewarded for his efforts with a try of his own.


The blues looked to have the ascendancy in the scrum early pushing the Hurricanes pack around several times in the first half, but in other phases of set piece play were exposed often. The Blues it would seem were very flattered by the result against the Western Force in their last pre-season game (43-5) as while the line up was relatively similar the performances were polar opposites. The Blues in this game looked to be struggling for combination with players running into isolation and subsequent turnover ball on many occasions.


The crowd seemed quietly confident at halftime although there was a sense of luck to the scoreline with The Blues being exposed in the lineout too many times for my liking. The guard dogs were asleep in their kennels by the time Chris Masoe sacked John Senio off the back of an attacking ruck deep in the Hurricanes half, to put Lome Fa’atau over the line some 80 m afar for his second try of the game.


Coach Nucifora has stated that he sees all black 1st five eigth understudy Luke McAlister as ‘more of a number twelve really’ I wonder how he sees Tasesa Lavea after the wayward effort in kicking and tactical option taking This evening.


Tana Umaga left the pitch shortly into the second half after contributing a try of his own to the tally and in testament to the high regard with which he is held, was given a rousing send off by the 35,000+ crowd, as the only surviving member on either side of the inaugural S12 fixture all those years ago.


The Blues will need to work hard on their combination and Nucifora on his selection policy after having been found wanting. A true test in this first match has seen the Blues inconsistent pre-season form exposed.


They now face a three match away tour to Otago, Queensland and then the Crusaders, before what will be a much anticipated bye I would expect. The blues away form to Queensland (Reds) in particular has not been the best in recent years and what will no doubt be a hot and humid game could make for more discomfort on and off the field.


Blues: (B. Atiga try; L. McAlister con, 4 pen)


Hurricanes: (L. Fa’atau 2, T. Umaga, M. Nonu, J. Collins; tries, J. Gopperth 2 con, pen; D. Holwell con, pen)


Halftime: 3-16  Full time 37-19


Blues:


Isa Nacewa, Doug Howlett, Ben Atiga, Luke McAlister, Joe Rokocoko, Tasesa Lavea, John Senio, Angus Macdonald, Daniel Braid, Nick Williams, Greg Rawlinson, Ali Williams, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (captain), Tony Woodcock.


Reserves: Tim Dow, Saimone Taumoepeau, Kurtis Haiu, Justin Collins, Steve Devine, Rua Tipoki, Brent Ward.


Hurricanes:


Isaia Toeava, Lome Fa’atau, Conrad Smith, Tana Umaga, Ma’a Nonu, Jimmy Gopperth, Piri Weepu, Rodney So’oialo, Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins, Jason Eaton, Luke Andrews, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Joe McDonnell.


Reserves: Luke Mahoney, Tim Fairbrother, Paul Tito, Thomas Waldrom, Brendan Haami, David Holwell, Shannon Paku.

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