Don’t break out the ticker-tape just yet, and the champagne can stay on ice for now. But it’s worth saying this quietly: these Blues just might be the real deal in 2019.
Leon MacDonald’s men won their third straight Super Rugby match on Saturday night at Eden Park when they outplayed South Africa’s Stormers 24-9, three tries to none, in a real arm-wrestle. The bonus point takes them thundering into the top eight, and third in the Kiwi conference, with 15 points courtesy of their 3-3 record.
It is the first time in nearly two years that they’ve rattled off three on the bounce in this competition and there was a lot to like about the clinical manner with which they went about their work. They even took a 69th-minute red card to wing Tanielu Tele’a (for a dangerous tackle on Dillyn Lleyds) in their stride, and barely missed a beat over the run home.
In other years maybe it would have unravelled for them at this point, with the 17-9 lead but down a man. Instead they steeled themselves, dug in, and even conjured a late try to Rieko Ioane – his seventh in the last three matches – to add the bonus-point icing to the cake.
It was an outstanding defensive display from the Blues. They nailed 142 of their 167 tackles, and kept the Stormers tryless, despite their glut of possession.
Patrick Tuipulotu, in the week he re-committed to this franchise and promised his best was still to come, put in a big, physical, committed shift. He was an inspiration up front.
Akira Ioane was also busy, both on defence and with ball in hand, and Tom Robinson added another tick to his bulging rookie resume. The lineout had a wobble or two, with four lost throws, but te scrum was rock solid.
Rieko Ioane was his lurking, dangerous self, always on the prowl for opportunity, and creating danger whenever his team-mates could get quality ball in his mitts. His late try was the least he deserved.
Over on the other wing, Tanielu Tele’a, was almost as good, carving up metres with his fast feet and excellent timing, scoring one outstanding try and threatening to add to that total throughout. His late blemish was the only blot on his copybook.
Ma’a Nonu was strong on the carry and when he left the field Sonny Bill Williams continued the positive stuff in midfield. Otere Black ran the show well.
The visitors’ big name forwards lived up to their reputations, none more than Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi, though Pieter-Steph du Toit’s handling left a little to be desired. In their backs Damian Willemse and Lleyds showed plenty, without being able to break through.
The Blues had got their act together in the nick of time in a mostly scrappy first half to carve out a 10-6 lead at the break, which wasn’t bad considering they were well beaten in the possession game.
It was more a product of the Stormers’ shortcomings, than particularly stout defence, that the visitors managed just two penalty goals to show from 61 per cent territory and nearly the same advantage in possession over the first 40 minutes.
They paid for it over the final 10 minutes, too, when the Blues, as they do, produced a piece of brilliance from nothing and rattled off 10 straight points to seize the initiative.
The half’s lone try, just past the half-hour mark, was an absolute peach. It came off a Blues lineout win 40 metres from their line, a Rieko Ioane bust on the double round and then a fabulous run from 50m out by Tele’a in which he fended Damian de Allende and slipped the tackle of Lleyds for a sizzling seven-pointer.
That seemed to spark the hosts. Nonu found space up the middle and nearly put Rieko Ioane away; then Tom Robinson did likewise with a bustling burst in the attack zone. Black added a penalty and, all things considered, the Kiwi outfit must have been pretty pleased with the advantage they took into the sheds.
The Stormers struck first in the second half with an early three-pointer, and looked like they had seized the lead soon after , only for what looked an excellent score from Josh Stander to be rubbed out by a forward pass in the leadup.
Then the Blues seized the initiative. Akira Ioane made a couple of likely breaks; Rieko Ioane and Melani Nanai nearly opened the Stormers up, only to be denied by some great defence from Willemse; and Etzebeth did very, very well to deny Robinson wide on the left after another sizzling breakout launched by Williams and Rieko Ioane.
Then, just past the three-quarter mark, the home side struck with the key blow, and a 17-9 lead, Black put over between the posts off a brilliantly worked move from scrum. Akira Ioane picked up, Jonathan Ruru linked and then Williams did what he does so well, taking the tackle and then offloading perfectly for his 10 on the support line.
Tele’a got himself in the wrong spot at the wrong time to cop the late red, but these Blues never blinked in the glare of the closing minutes, Ioane’s try sealing a very, very good victory.
Blues 24 (Tanielu Tele’a, Otere Black, Rieko Ioane tries; Black pen, 3 cons), Stormers 9 (Jean-Luc du Plessis 3 penS). Ht: 10-6.
Source link : https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/super-rugby/111674768/super-rugby-blues-down-stormers-for-third-straight-win
Publish date : 2019-03-30 08:45:00