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Blues are back! Caning of the 'Canes! 44 views 0 Comments
20 March 2011 by deep
 
Connected with: Wiki Player Conrad Smith, Neemia Tialata, Alby Mathewson

The Blues continued where they left off from their last home town performance, with a strong win over tough competition.


It's another perfect day in Auckland, giving a beaut evening to settle into Eden Park and watch a bit of footy.  Love this summer game!

An earlier arrival than usual meant a casual stroll to the park, but with the fact in mind that my last minute call to see the game live meant I still needed to buy a ticket.  Simple enough you'd think, but the conversation goes something like this. 

"Ticket in the West stand please."  "Sorry, we're not selling tickets in that stand, that's Internet sales only."  "... aye?  So even though there's still plenty of spare seats up there, I can't go there?" "Yep, that's right.  Any of the other 3 stands are OK."  Bemused but no biggie, I think a good excuse to try out the brand new South stand. "Fine then, I"ll have ticket as close to the front as possible in one of the end blocks so I can be near the goal line."  (extended pause while the guy looks hard at the seating arrangements) "hmmm...  what about the East stand, I can put you near the front of that stand, but not in the South stand."  I'm thinking this is a low demand block I've asked for and the crowd while building was in no way going to more than half fill the place.  "So you're saying the area I want is full?"  "The only available seats are well back from the front." was his reply. 

Thankfully I know better and grab a ticket near the back.  "Thanks mate."  I walk in and check my spot, and as anticipated I was literally one of about 10 people in the entire block.  A casual walk downhill and I choose from a selection of front line seats right where I wanted.  You gotta wonder!

Being a little early I get to see the players steadily trickle onto the pitch, with the Blues warming up right in front of me.  Interesting watching the various moves and combinations they run, and to see Pat Lam calmly watching on but not actually doing anything other than being present and observing.  A man looking assured and in control.

As kick off approaches I start to be surrounded by a mob of hard young men, average age around 9 I'd guess.  Seems this is the pen where parents offload their enthusiastic youth to harass players as they walk the sideline.  "Rene Ranger! Rene Ranger! Hey, Rene Ranger, over here!  Rene Ranger!" in my ears.  The atmosphere builds.

First Half
Early on the game is very even with the ball moving all over the park, and both sides having their turn with field position and penalties.  Conrad Smith showed his class when he nearly cut Ranger in half with a crushing tackle that stifled a threatening run up the wing.  It's rare to see Ranger go down without a fight, but in this case he needed a hand back to his feet.

This time it's the Blues with position, nicely inside the Canes half, mid field when Toe'ava injects into the backline, slides sideways as he scythes through a gap between Thrush and an out of line Jason Eaton.  It ends with a strong hand-off to Ranger who powers into a couple of tacklers, manages to keep in the field of play, and touches down for the first try of the game.  McAlister is on kicking duty today and converts as the ball sails past a backdrop of the biggest moon that we've seen in years.  (That's a fact - the weatherman said so. The big green cheese is nearly 50,000 km closer than normal at the moment.)

The Cane's stay in touch with another penalty by Kirkpatrick, the ex-Blues player.

Now the Cane's are threatening in mid-field when Nonu coughs up possession.  Jared Payne picks up and releases to Ranger who makes another powerful run up the wing, makes a dificult in-pass look easy and sets up Brett for what ends up being a simple try under the posts.

Still the game surges fairly evenly in both directions, but this time the Cane's keep the pressure on.  After repeated phases edging closer to the Blues line, Tialata dummies and takes on Luke Braid who can't tame the stampeding rhino.  The boy waving his flag in my face all night and causing me to miss much of the action also gets a gentle 'Get the heck out of my way!" as the conversion is missed.  But another penalty soon after keeps the Cane's well in this contest.

The half finishes with penalties being fired.  The Canes shoot for goal right on the hooter, hit the posts and Smith snaffles the loose ball as he darts toward the line.  He's caught, but It starts a scramble which sees Thrush over the line in the corner, but not able to dot down as he's bundled into touch in goal.

20 - 14 in favour of the Blues.

Second Half

The game continues it's high class pace, typified by a telling Cory Jane run from the back that in turn sets up Julian Savea who rampages up the right touchline, nearly creating a try. This is an IRB agegroup player of the year, and touches of class show through in his running, but also with a good work rate and industrious play through the night.  The exact same words could be said about Toe'ava, but he's got an extra couple of years under his belt now and now his magic is becoming more consistent.

The seesaw battle continues through the first 20 minutes of the second half, with open running rugby all over the park.  There are no tries and a few penalties, but only the Cane's manage to slot one.  The scoreline is narrowed to 20 - 17 with 20 minutes to go.

The bench on both sides start to see some action, and Munro comes on for McAlister.  Toe'ava moves up to second five, and Munro heads to the back.

Now, the most telling moments of the game occur.  First Hore gets sinbinned for a dumb hand through a ruck [Later addendum: Hore gets wrongly yellowed after some outstanding play on the frings of a ruck that causes a turnover and releases a flying up the wing on a dangerous counter attack].  Then sustained pressure by the Blues is finished by Munro who runs a great line to make a clear break through the middle.  He received the ball on the Canes 22, ends up unchallenged in-goal, and celebrates with a  classy dive to dot the ball down.  With 15 to go, it's now 27 -17 and looking tough for the visitors.

From here on it is the Blues all the way.  At 73 minutes the Cane's overthrow their lineout.  Mathewson collects off the back and squeezes between an asleep Cruden and a stretching Keats for a dash to the posts. 

Finally, just before fulltime Payne finishes yet more pressure with a little jink to break the defensive line and fall over for a touchdown.














Summary


In the end the Blues were just too good.  Again they are looking like an outfit with a great balance of continuity and flair. Toe'ava was impressive all over, whiile the Brett and McAlister combination looked sharp and for the first time in ages Brett put in a complete performance. They present as a tight-knit group who are rapidly gaining confidence and belief in themselves and each other.  This year they have the class to go all the way.

The Hurricances were beaten in the end, and while putting up a valant show, also with masses of talent around the park, they simply came up one card short and it showed on the scoreline.

The last word today, comes from some happy Blues fans....

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Tags: Blues, Hurricanes, Super 15



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