23 Apr

That's The Way ( I Like It )
by Rob Wallace
23 Apr 2001

This week we saw a glimpse of what might have been with the Blues season with a 26-12 away victory over the Stormers. The pack played solid, safe, organised rugby and controlled the game, helped along by the tidy play of James Arlidge at five-eighth. This would have been an ideal performance to build on early in the year, and use as a platform for better things later in the season, but it’s too late for the Blues now.

The front row of White, MacFarland and Taumoepeau is clearly the Blues best and they had little problem offering a solid platform for the rest of the forwards to work from. Taylor has made a huge improvement to the pack – he’s the epitome of a tight forward – doing the hard work in close, and keeping it all together, particularly in the mauls, and also providing much needed leadership. Flavell and Cribb have both knuckled down to getting their jobs done first, before trying any fancy stuff and all of this has lead to a good team effort in terms of ball retention and structure in the Blues play.

This forward improvement has been coupled with the injury to Spencer, and has led a more conservative playmaker at five-eighth, which seems to suit the team. Spencer is a vastly talented player, but in a team as the Blues were, with no cohesion or organisation, this simply led to more chaos. Spencer creates and scores tries that few other players could, but in retrospect the Blues may have been better served initially with a more steady influence, until the forwards had enough confidence and control to let Spencer loose. There’s also the issue of poor input and planning from the coaches to consider as well.

At the weekend the backline looked a bit messy, with the new combination of Innes and Tipoki not quite used to each other. Tipoki looks better wider out, as he has a tendency to cut back in, and he’s further away from the ruck and forwards at centre, giving him more room to move. But their defence, like that of the forwards was exemplary, and pressured the Stormers into mistakes. Vidiri, whose hands are variable, picked the perfect time to demonstrate that on a good day he’s one of the best wingers around, scooping up a chip ahead to score the try that gave the Blues the lead. Howlett scored the last try after a great break by Hayden Taylor.

Wins by the Highlanders 16-9 over the Brumbies, and the Chiefs in SA over the Bulls [49-37] have left the mid-table even more crowded. There are some key matchups over the next few weeks – particularly for the Hurricanes who play the Warratahs and the Chiefs in what are likely to be knockout matches for semifinal places.

There’s still some good rugby coming up.

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