24 Mar

Back into the groove
by Rob Wallace
24 Mar 2003

Teams can be a bit rusty after a bye and lose their momentum, but that didn’t trouble the Blues as they smashed the Reds 62-20 in Whangarei, which was ironic considering the Reds pregame shots about not rating the Blues, and implying the Blues were taking it too easy by rotating players.

It was by no means a perfect performance – there were too many errors – but it showed exactly what this Blues team is doing well. And it starts with the forwards – Spencer has always looked good with quality, front-foot ball and the current Blues pack is delivering it to him. And the whole team seems to be enjoying themselves as they play – a marked comparison to the dour faces from Christchurch. And when Carlos is enjoying himself, anything can happen.

Frontrowers Manu and Whitcombe started this match, and with Woodcock provided a very solid platform. Manu, in particular, had a very good game and I wonder how he now feels about his enforced switch to the Blues. Perhaps Auckland is looking attractive?

Ali Williams had a great game, and the pace and power of the Blues pack reduced the Reds to also rans. Support play was excellent and loose forward combination had another strong game.

The backs had a mixed day. Spencer was brilliant, both creating and scoring tries but the rest looked like they were trying too hard to score at times, and would have been better to play more controlled rugby and wait for the gaps to appear.

Gear had a tidy game at centre and set up a couple of tries with some nice short passes, Howlett enjoyed being back on the wing and looked more dangerous there as he ran in 2 tries while Caucaunibuca had his quietest game of the season as play didn’t flow his way.

Overall, it was good to see the team back into the groove as they begin to work toward the business end of the season. They may be top of the table but there’s a long way to go yet, and more often than not, the team that tops the table doesn’t go on to win the final.

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