I would have given you a million dollars
Blues coach John Kirwan was thrilled with Friday’s victory over the Crusaders, but believes his side can get much better.
The Blues trounced the Crusaders by five tries to nil to run out convincing 34-15 victors in a fine performance, but they failed to get the dominance they desired at the set-piece and conceded too many penalties.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Kirwan said.
“I think we can get better but the guys should be proud. We’ll enjoy it, get up tomorrow and make sure we keep working hard.”
While the Blues’ electric backs showed plenty of razzle dazzle to score some excellent tries, Kirwan said he was extremely pleased with the way his side managed to prevent the Crusaders from scoring.
“We’ve got a very young defensive coach [Graham Henry] who is very happy with the zero tries,” Kirwan quipped.
“That shows the courage and commitment that the guys are putting out there so for us it’s about taking this moment. I think this is a special moment for us as Blues people because this is a great football side that came to Eden Park. We knew it would be a big ask and the guys ran, especially in that last 20, and just tackled, tackled and tackled.”
It is the perfect start for the Blues. Written off by the media as too young and too inexperienced, Kirwan’s men have defied their critics by scoring two bonus point wins to sit joint equal at the top of the New Zealand Conference ladder.
Kirwan conceded it was a shock even to him.
“I’m pretty surprised. If you had said to Ali and I when we were sitting having a cappuccino talking about him being captain and me being coach three months ago that we’d be on ten points after our first two games I would have given you a million dollars to be honest.”
There was less emotion for Kirwan in his second game in charge. He was mightily impressed with Luke Braid’s performance as well as centre Rene Ranger, but also praised the way the reserves played when they were called upon.
“I thought the bench was outstanding for us. I thought Angus Ta’avao was unbelievable when he came on. In fact all those boys, Bryn, Jackson and Baden – they all came on at a critical moment in the game when the Crusaders were getting into their old style of work and were trying to grind us down.
"The guys came on and really made a difference so they can be really proud of how they helped the team to win.”
The Blues played with the thrilling brand of rugby that had the 31,104 crowd at Eden Park on their feet for much of the game, and while their willingness to chance their arm from their own half backfired at times, Kirwan still urged his side to give it a go when the opportunities arose.
“When you want to play high skill, high tempo, high impact there are going to be occasions where you take a breath and I certainly took a few deep breaths in the coaching box but we’ve got to trust the guys,” he said.
“If we want to play an expansive game then sometimes we’re going to be in situations where we get turned over and put ourselves under the pump but then also late when George scored we took that risk and it came off so it’s a balance that we need to find and I think tonight the boys went a long way to finding that right balance.”
Scrumhalf Piri Weepu had a disappointing night with the boot, missing a number of shots at goal which could have cost the Blues in a tighter game, but Kirwan revealed Weepu was only handed the kicking duties at the eleventh hour.
“We had a problem in the pre-game. Noakesy was ready to kick and he kicked in the warm-up but tightened up so we gave Piri 30 seconds to prepare. We can’t afford to leave those points out there and one of the reasons we got Baden on late was Noakesy had tightened up in his groin, Piri was off and we needed to get a goal kicker out there.
"Noakes is coming back from an operation, we just need to make sure we take care with these guys as well but you’re right we need to take all the points that we can.”
Kirwan was ecstatic with the crowd at Eden Park on Friday and hoped to see more of the same when the Blues take on the Bulls on Sunday.
“They’re absolutely fundamental to our success,” Kirwan said.
“We need to build what is a great stadium. We need these people turning up next week. We’ve got a strong Bulls side coming down and they’re going to try and beat us up.
“We just need these people turning up and doing what they did tonight. I’m sure it was great for these guys out there and we want people to have a party.”