Blues coach John Kirwan. Photo Reuters
Blues coach John Kirwan eyeballed his squad early in the
week and demanded they show "mongrel dog attitude" for their
Super 15 initiation.
The response was unequivocal and insistent. It needed to be
because the Blues were worked over by the Hurricanes in
several areas and stiffed by the match officials for a
The struggles have not disappeared for the Blues but signs of
a revival were strong in their 34-20 win at the Cake Tin.
Rugby coaches love prattling on about "there being no I in
team" and for a rare occasion, that jingle applied to the
Blues when they opened their campaign in Wellington.
They played shoulder to shoulder, they concentrated on
traditional roles and showed the resilience which has been
too flaky for the last decade.
One victory does not guarantee a season's success and the
pressure will ratchet up another notch when the Blues host
the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday.
However, the first-up performance will have stirred the
pedigreed coaching staff and endorsed the players' belief
they can give the series a serious shake.
As a first step for 2013, it was a giant stride for the
They hit the ignition button once wing Frank Halai was
sinbinned, harshly, and the Blues yielded a penalty try.
"That was a turning point in our favour I thought," Kirwan
"Ali Williams got the side together and we showed our courage
and conviction from there."
The Blues scored 18 unanswered points in a withering finish
to the match which suggested much of their firepower.
Confidence has grown in the Blues as they have answered heavy
demands about their fitness, worked on set piece drills and
been encouraged to express themselves.
Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger and Francis Saili can break down
any defences with their mix of power and footwork but that
damaging ability can also leave them struggling to link up
However, like all the combinations in the Blues, they are on
the rise and the warnings are there in red capital letters
for their rivals.
Halfback Piri Weepu marshalled the systems and delivered the
service in his 100th Super game while new five-eighths Chris
Noakes showed strong signs and a running game which has not
been heavily associated with his career.
Both packs had their battles at scrum and lineout but the
Blues conceded fewer turnovers, recycled more rucks and
created more carries.
Blindside flanker Steven Luatua breached the advantage line
often and there was robust production from Peter Saili, James
Parsons and Williams.
Saili took a knock to his achilles but the medical staff
believe he will be fine for the next match.
"We have put the Hurricanes game to bed now. We had a strong
gathering afterwards where Ali led the talk about getting
things right for the Crusaders," said Kirwan.
Canes coach Mark Hammett did not buy into any pre-match
underdog comments about the Blues but will be pondering
whether his men did, struggled with the pace of the match or
even buttoned off when they had an extra man.
Captain Conrad Smith was concussed late and that will be
another issue before their next away match on Friday against
- Wynne Gray of the New Zealand Herald