La Blues put down the theory that they not only have a winning team but they are a winning club, with a brave 20-17 victory over the Waratahs. That’s 13 in a row, a club record.
They had the luxury of a guaranteed position at the top of the table at the end of the round robin, so that allowed Leon McDonald to give opportunities to players who have played supporting roles so far this season. They may have lacked stellar power but there was an excess of desire and bravery.
La Waratahs a melee that jammed the Hurricanes a few weeks ago it was left ragged. The period between 30 minutes and a half where the Blues were two men down, squad players stepped up and showed a steel lust to overcome the opposition 3-0, and deny the Waratahs half a dozen times on offense.
It seemed that the lack of match play had reached the heroic Kiwis, as at the 50-minute mark the Waratahs opened their account and gained momentum as the energy of the Blues’ starters dwindled. But another wave of heroes has emerged from the bench to give the club a win that will pay dividends in years to come as young players have shown they have the “right things”.
Here are the Blues’ ratings:
1. Jordan Lay – 8/10
It was a huge effort by the relaxer, especially at the time of a melee. The penalty at 30 minutes with two men down and backs on the side of a melee was his highest point. He punched Holz and his opponent was hooked at halftime. Brilliant success in the 45th minute on Hooper, it may have been satisfying but he grabbed himself and away he went.
2. Ricky Riccitelli – 7.5
He soon lost a couple of underlines, but his ability at first receiver and the starch he showed in clean outings were amazing to watch. He was smashed by Hooper in the face but ironically his strength probably removed the Tahs captain. Some swings may suggest, if it were otherwise, the NSW No 7 would be twisting on the ground as an Italian striker.
3. Grandson Laulala – 8
Great task against the best loosehead in the compound but delivered in a sting. Good scrump penalties in the 14th and 21st that were directly against Bell. Grandson was a bit slow rolling away in the 24th, he always seems to have one brain fading. Removed at 52.
4. Luke Roman © – 9
Granted the captaincy as a reward for his leadership at the club and gave it his all. He looked like Rocky with a 50-minute blood mask on his face and was dressed and cleaned like a madman. The hippopotamus as a load at 75 and a test that changed the course of the match, it is a sign of the big man that he has been a club member all his career, at two clubs now.
5. Josh Goodhue – 7
It was a good foil to Roman and he was the main lineout source. It got an outfielder at the 25th mark in a ruck that led to the continued pressure and yellow cards. Removed at 54.
6. Anton Segner – 5
An unfortunate day at the office for Herr Segner, away in the 12th minute, rolling his ankle after landing awkwardly at the lineup.
7. Adrian Choat – 7.5
Received a yellow card after being obscured by Hooper in an open game and hitting Vailanu high. Great hit on hooper at 62. Was only credited with 8 tackles but seemed involved with double that. He seems to have built his upper body up and that shows in contact.
8. Taine Plumtree – 8
It was a great young Plums back after his cameo in March when he scored 2 tries back against the Highlanders. But it wasn’t his choral skills in the open that stood out, it was in the trenches. He especially increased when his two sidekicks were in the bin half time ago but he went on to 76.
9. Sam Nock – 6
He seemed unable to find his rhythm for a while, he had a hard time timing his arrival at the breakdown and some of the service was reckless early doors. But he finished and made his mark in defense; an amazing 39-minute break after Newsome’s break and a good cover D again at 43. Off at 69.
10. Jock McKenzie – 7.5
I was lucky enough to comment on him when he starred in Westlake Boys, he always seems to have Carter-esque stability that shows he has a lot of time. I was wondering if at Super Level his movement might be too slow, but he was good. Not afraid to take the ball to the line but aa dropsy early and lost his support a few times. Out at 54.
11. AJ Lam – 4.5
Quiet in the first half. Maybe got up at half time and got carried early in the second half but held on. Blues needs more of him from next week if he starts.
12. Corey Evans – 7.5
I like this guy’s technique. His handling is impeccable, his body position with a ball in hand is effective and difficult to defend. Top handler along with Plumtree and is one for the future.
13. Tamati Tua – 7
I always like to watch this guy at NPC level, he never leaves anything on the park and it was the same today. He slipped away from Foketi at the age of 19, but sometimes there was a willing ball carrier on the wings, I don’t know where the wings were! Loved his efforts at winger when his team won the scrump penalty in the 31st minute!
14. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens – 5.5
Has speed abundantly and got a few yards under his belt carrying from the back field but there was some unconvincing decision. Crouched for 50 minutes, limped around and was caught out on defense and in the backfield a few times.
15. Zarn Sullivan – 8
A good start with a few rakes from the left foot. Big Toro hammer of gear on Donaldson at holding Waratahs out on a 2-man deficit. Then he went low during the second half, several times putting the ball on the full. No one will remember those though after his last minute a dropped goal clicked. A sign that the Blues are doing well now is that all these youngsters who played 1st XV three years ago are getting stronger. Young people with something special.
16. Soane Vikena – 8 – On at 58 and a watershed match for the young rake in my opinion; he stamped his mark right from the start with an aggressive turnover. A good bit and right up Romano’s bum as he crashed over the line. It showed real fervor and lost the nervousness we saw once this year.
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 7 – On at 45 and tried hard with a ball in hand and in defense. He chased a wing that wanted him to break out at one stage.
18. Marcel Renata – 6 – On at 52. Tried to fight hard and tore into some strong defense. He gave up the scrump punishment where the Tahs equalized with a moment to go.
19. Sam Darry – N / A – On at 76.
20. Cameron Suafoa – 7.5 – On at 54 at a lock in front of Darry and impressed with some very angry bears creating some big pits in the Waratahs line. Trial was a good reward for his efforts. Also got a good ball, though missed a throw at 72. Finished the match on a blind side.
21. Akira Ioane – 7.5- 12 minutes after Segner’s misfortune. It actually worked in the Blues favor in the end when Akira made valuable yards and carried bravely. Slightly unhappy with the yellow card as he read the rolling maul and folded quickly to close the attack in the 28th minute but wrapped his arm high from the crouching Vailanu.
22. Taufa Funaki – 6 – On at 69 and played his part in the win with an accurate pass, including the final that led to the dropped goal.
23. Nigel Ah-Wong – 5.5 – On at 54 and this man gets Jack Nicklaus a big cache of clubs in his bag.
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