Young Blues learn important lesson
May 3, 2013
Blues centre Jackson Willison is tackled by the Stormers' Duane Vermeulen © Getty Images
An important step in the advance of the Blues occurred at North Harbour Stadium on Friday night, according to captain and lock Ali Williams.
While the natural bent of the young players in the Blues side was to want to make line breaks and fling the ball about in an open game, the big thing against the Stormers was bringing the ball back in and learning to win ugly.
"Against African teams you have got to learn to win ugly," he said. "They play a different style of rugby and they frustrate you, and with a young team that is one of the risks, that they can get frustrated. We're building, little combinations are building and it was good to see Pow [Piri Weepu] play 80 minutes and what he brought there towards the end was 'keep working, keep working, keep driving it's not about being flashy, it's just about doing our job' and we're all helping each other," he said.
Coach Sir John Kirwan was delighted with the tactical choices made by the Blues in the wake of the one-point loss to the Queensland Reds, while those choices were supplemented by gutsy defence in clutch situations.
"It was a tough performance, courageous, we didn't make any changes and just told them to stay out there and win the football game," he said.
The lack of changes was not a lesson learned from the late substitutions made last week, Kirwan said. The Reds game had been "frantic and physical" while Friday night's game by contrast was "stop-start and frustrating" and the coaches felt changes could be more of a disruption on the night.
The Stormers were not the type of team the Blues could be expansive against. They closed the gate defensively and it had been important to hold onto the ball and not make mistakes and that was what happened.
Captain Ali Williams said he didn't have to say too much to the side in the last few moments and felt the will and desire to play for each other was sufficient reminder to the players in the tight situations and Francis Saili had demonstrated that after his missed tackle on Jean de Villiers, which led to the second try.
He was more concerned that he had let his team-mates down than anything else, Williams said. And he said there was a special feeling among the players on the field.
Kirwan said the team also benefited from working very hard with the referees to ensure their technique for stopping the opposition's rolling maul was correct and that had seen them through on this occasion. And on one occasion, when Williams had been able to get through the middle of the maul, it had taken some confidence away from the Stormers in that position.
The Blues hold on to defeat the Stormers (Australia only)
While the substituting of hooker Keven Mealamu, who had a tightening in his calf muscles, was based on precaution, Kirwan said he was delighted with the effort put in by Quentin MacDonald.
"If we're going to be around later in the season we just need to learn to play against the opposition and we planned really hard for this week and the boys executed the game plan," he said.
Williams said the loose forwards were indicative of the changes occurring in the approach of the side. The trio of Luke Braid, Steven Luatua and Pete Saili were realising the value of working as a unit and not playing well individually.
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