9 Apr

Poor Poor Pitiful Me
by Rob Wallace
9 Apr 2001

After last weeks inept play the Blues declined further with an extraordinarily poor display on Saturday, losing 41-27 to the Sharks.

The week started with Frank Oliver’s unusual team selection, dropping Robinson, Parkinson and Flavell, presumably for disciplinary reasons. Facing a bulky and powerful Sharks pack, Oliver selected Reichelmann and Newby and stated that the Blues would beat them with agility and skill.

Well, I don’t know what tactics Frank offered his team but either he’s very stupid or the team didn’t execute them. Repeatedly smashing the ball up against a bigger pack is basically rugby suicide, and rather than agility and skill we saw errors and foul play. For the second week in a row the Blues were penalised out of the game. Devine’s strength is releasing the ball quickly to the backline which the Blues seldom did, negating his effect – they would have been better with Robinson there. When the ball was released wide the backline looked good, and they scored some lovely tries but spoiled other opportunities with poor handling and kicking.

This backline is very much like Kirwan in his playing days – can’t kick, can’t catch, mediocre tackling but brilliant running. The punting from everyone but Innes was appalling, and Howlett was really the only player to come out of the game with credit.

The forwards didn’t do the basic work needed, and their tackling was poor. Newby was in the right place all the game, but really isn’t bulky enough to be effective at this level. Reichelmann was anonymous, and Brooke’s standards have slipped badly. Rush was busy, and took the ball up well but isn’t a natural blindside, while Cribb struggled at the back of this pack. Flavell came on for the last 20 minutes but spent 10 of them in the sinbin.

In contrast the Sharks played smart tactical rugby. They rumbled up with their big pack, kicked to Vidiri, or behind Howlett and minimised their errors. They looked well coached and well organised, and should now make the top four playoffs, whereas the Blues will be fighting off the Bulls for the wooden spoon.

The only good thing about the game was the 5:30 kickoff. The game started in warm sunshine and with a dry ground, and finished under lights before the dew set in. This time means you can enjoy your afternoon, see the rugby, and still go out for the evening afterward – they should start more Saturday games at this time.

Next week offers the Cats in Whangarei. Oliver may as well select as many Northlanders as possible – they can’t play any worse and at least the crowd will turn up to see them – I have grave doubts about punters paying money to see more of this rubbish.

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