Blues hold off spirited Waratahs
The Blues have beaten the Waratahs in a tight affair by 21-13 thanks to a strong first half and an incredible amount of tenacity in the second.
When you were a little boy, some wise old man probably said to you: 'If you can't catch and pass, you can't play rugby.' That was the Waratahs on Friday evening at Eden Park in Auckland. They were the stronger team, but handling was not their strength.
This was summed up as they tried manfully after the siren and played on in search of another score, but all that effort fizzled out when their handling failed and the ball dribbled into touch. A scrum count of 14-4 against them told the story of poor handling.
On the score of statistics, this time, for the first time, the Waratahs had the better of the penalty count - 13-8 in their favour - but if you can't catch and pass you can't play rugby.
They were much the stronger side at scrum time and they defended with reliance but they could not catch and pass. Their best bit of defence was near the end when the Blues had three five-metre scrums in quick succession without scoring.
In addition to the try by Jacques Potgieter, the Waratahs had two TMO decisions show that they had not scored tries when they perhaps thought they had. The first was in the first minute of the game when Adam Ashley-Cooper broke past two Blues players and inside the third before setting Rob Horne free on his left. Horne ran for the line but was tackled by Frank Halai and fell short of the line. He stretched out and grounded the ball over the line but the replay saw that he had not only stretched but also propelled his body to make it more effective. Horne was penalised.
Horne was also the centre of the second chance when he picked up a loose ball and ran many metres to the posts, but the TMO saw that the ball was loose because Horne had himself knocked it on.
The Waratahs had the first chance to score but Bernard Foley missed a straightforward kick at goal, but when Ashley-Cooper was offside, young Simon Hickey goaled. 3-0 after 7 minutes.
The Blues handled much better and they also ran straighter. Ma'a Nonu turned this to good use. Lolagi Visinia kicked high and caught his own kick. The ball went right where Nonu straightened and broke. Then the Blues went left where Nonu threw a brilliant, extraordinarily long pass to Visinia who scored in the left corner as two desperate defenders sought to stop him. 8-0 after 21 minutes.
The Bleus went through phases, Jerome Kaino broke, Phipps had a run and Foley broke only for a rotten pass to frustrate the Waratahs yet again. But the Blues were offside. 8-3 after 34 minutes.
Nonu kicked a clever grubber to the left corner but Israel Folau, who had a quiet game, did well to save. A penalty goal by Hickey made it 11-3 after 46 minutes.
The second Blues try came gift-wrapped by a clever kick. Foley chipped to his right for Cam Crawford who was unmarked but the ball bounced wickedly and Visinia got hold of it and darted ahead.. The left wing played inside to Charles Piutau who gave to a charging Francis Saili. Desperate Hooper grabbed Saili but the centre had the strength and impetus to score. Again Hickey converted from far out. 18-3 after 52 minutes. A clever kick by the Waratahs produced a try against them.
There was a great cheer from the 17 111 spectators when Piri Weepu came on as a substitute, proof positive that he had recovered from the worrying stroke.
A penalty gave the Waratahs a 15-metre line-out and they mauled to the Blues' line. They bashed and Phipps gave Potgieter a short pass. Coming in at an angle the big man rocketted over for the try. 18-10 after 58 minutes.
The Waratahs looked threatening and a Foley penalty got them to 18-13 after 68 minutes, in bonus point distance from the Blues but Brendan McKibbin kicked a horrible kick, supposed to go over his forwards in front of him abut it went straight up and straight down and they were all offside. Hickey goaled. 21-13 with 9 minutes to play, and the Blues had the better of that time with three five-metre scrums.
Man of the Match: Lolagi Visinia was blessed by rugby fortune, Ma'a Nonu made great opportunities and so did Adam Ashley-Cooper but our man of the match is a resurgent Jerome Kaino for the strength of his defence and the force of his carries.