25 Mar

The entertainers
by Zand Moloney
25 Mar 2004

Just as I start to get despondant the Hurricanes come to play, showing exactly what they can do against the Cats and the Stormers, and then are unlucky losers against the Sharks.
The Stormers game was just the sort of gritty performance that was needed after two losses, then the Cats performance? Well that is why we ‘Canes supporters put up with some abysmal games, tryfests like that.
Perhaps I was a touch harsh about the earlier games, Colin Cooper’s game plan seems to be coming together and those areas that were poor have got much better.
The scrums are improving, and the loose trio have been a revelation, especially Ben Herring who despite his size seems to be the sort of ball-winning terrier we need at openside.
Brent Ward has really taken over well from the great Cullen, but the outstanding backs for me so far have been Ma’a Nonu and Tane Tuipoluto who have formed a great partnership it the midfield.In fact there seems to be depth in all postitions and even stalwarts like David Holwell and Jason Spice know there is pressure for them to perform.
Although much needs to be done for a semi-final place the ‘Canes are looking much more like the team of last year, the one worry is that next up are The Blues who have terrorised us fans since the start of the Super 12.
No matter how badly the Blues play against anyone else they seem to get it together to beat the Hurricanes so I am not at all confident, despite the Blues poor showing so far.
However, if the Hurricanes can overcome what seems to be a mental block about the Blues we may see a new confidence about the team.

10 Mar

It's on the Rocks
by Rob Wallace
10 Mar 2004

Without mincing words, the Blues feeble play against the Chiefs was the worst performance I have seen by any home team at Eden Park for several years.

The forwards seem to have returned from the RWC thinking they are stars, and completely neglected all the basics of forward play. Plus the error rate in the first half was inexcusable. The cardinal sin in my eyes was the failure to take *any* kickoff as far as I could tell. It was just bollocks. The forwards have been quick to demonstrate the worst of the problems we saw at RWC03, and I find it almost unbelieveable that after seeing how getting your pack set and kicking goals wins matches, the Blues are too arrogant to consider it. The Blues seems to think that a sloppy forward performance is ok, all they have to do is get a little ball and give it to the magical atttacking backline, and they’ll be ok. Sorry, mate, you won’t be. Add to that a league backline setup that even the Cowboys wouldn’t be happy with and it’s a miracle the Blues got any points.

Last year the Blues did not have the best forward pack but with several forwards having stellar seasons, and some good teamwork it was enough for a very talented backline. This year, they are a pack of donkeys. The worst is Ali Williams who seems to be having a concerted crack at the ‘I don’t ever want to see a Black Jersey again’ Award by being completely useless in nearly all phases of play. He looked fabulous at times last season – now he can’t catch, can’t run, does no work around the field, and is bugger all use at scrum time. Winning an occasional lineout is not enough, chump.

Braid works hard, but looks very ordinary this year, especially when compared to McCaw’s efforts, and was comprehensively outplayed by Holah. Without Meeuws the front row is ripe for the picking, especially with an injured Feek, although Mealamu still looks an ideal player for the ABs to bring on after 50-60 min.

It got a bit better with Justin Collins back on the field but unless something changes this is not a good enough pack to get through this years S12 draw. In some respects, the injury to Spencer may help things as the forwards are now going to have to knuckle down and do some work, and not rely on Spencer and Caucaunibuca to magically win the game.

Howlett’s form has been awful. None of the rest of the backs seem to know what they are doing apart from Caucau (run forward fast).

It was a really important result for the Chiefs. I think they are a limited team who have shown exactly what NZ teams need to do to win games at any level – get the basics right. The Chiefs forwards dicked the Blues in all phases of play and that was the end of the game. I cannot believe that after the RWC debacle we have the Blues playing rugby that is even less structured, less committed up front, and more flighty that the candyfloss crap we saw in Australia. I’m quite happy to kick for the corner with penalties, but the Blues have become way too obsessed with scoring tries at the expense of what is sensible. Good on the Chiefs for some decent rugby.