Defensive performance key for Blues
February 28, 2009
The Stormers Jean de Villiers produced a fine display in defeat
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Resolute defence was the matchwinner for the Blues, who were dominated in both the territory and possession stakes at Newlands. It was a world apart from last week's 59-26 thrashing at the hands of the Bulls in Pretoria and left the New Zealand franchise in fifth place with two wins from three matches away from home.
It is an excellent outcome given the weakened side coach Pat Lam has had to field in their two South African games due to injury, suspension and parental leave.
Blues captain Keven Mealamu was delighted by the turnaround in seven days. "We had a really tough week after the Bulls game," he said. "Ten points on the road is a real blessing for us... we'll take some confidence out of this, the boys showed a lot of heart. "There's no easy games in this competition so we're stoked being able to win away from home."
The highly-fancied Stormers have won just one of three games at home following a frustrating display today in which errors permeated their game as they struggled for a way through. The scores were locked 8-8 at halftime leaving two penalties to Blues winger Paul Williams to provide the difference.
A summary of the Blues' display came in the final minute as the Stormers launched several surges at the tryline before a knock-on was ruled, bringing enormous relief to the visitors. Their tackling throughout was a mixture of aggression and desperation, with Blues flanker Justin Collins among the most tireless in his 100th Super rugby match.
Starch was added to the pack by the return of All Blacks loose forward Jerome Kaino, while fellow-new fathers Taniela Moa and Joe Rokocoko provided some of the experience missing last week in Pretoria. Inexperienced fly half Michael Hobbs was a quality performer after entering the game midway through the first half for Tasesa Lavea, who injured a hamstring. Lavea's exit handed the goalkicking to Williams, who missed a conversion but landed all three of his penalty attempts.
Lam can look forward to strengthening his side further when they return to Auckland to host the Sharks next weekend.
Stormers first five-eighth Peter Grant opened the scoring with an 11th minute penalty as his team dominated the opening quarter with the aid of a swirling wind. Williams responded in the 22nd minute against the run of play, crossing in the right corner after some slick hands from a midfield scrum.
The hosts were back in front when halfback Ricky Januarie scored an opportunist try, toeing ahead from 30m after the ball popped free from a ruck. Januarie's swan dive to score had shades of the late, matchwinning try he scored when the Springboks topped the All Blacks in Dunedin last year.
Williams levelled the scores with a penalty 3min from halftime and repeated the dose in the 53rd and 78th minutes. Stormers captain Jean de Villiers was outstanding on attack, and pulled off a trysaving tackle on Isaia Toeava with 15min remaining when the Blues fullback intercepted from 60m out and sped away. He rued the mistake rate of his team. "We had the opportunities but we just don't seem to be able to score the tries off them."
Stormers: Percy Montgomery, Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (capt), Sireli Naqelevuki, Peter Grant, Ricky Januarie, Luke Watson, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits, JD Moller Replacements: Deon Fourie, Wicus Blaauw. AJ Venter, Francois Louw, Bolla Conradie, Nick Koster, Willem de Waal
Blues: Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko, Anthony Tuitavake, Jamie Helleur, Paul Williams, Tasesa Lavea, Taniela Moa, Jerome Kaino, Josh Blackie, Justin Collins, Anthony Boric, Kurtis Haiu/Chris Lowrey, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (capt), Tony Woodcock Replacements: Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau, Lowrey/Dean Budd, Peter Saili, Chris Smylie, Michael Hobbs, Winston Stanley