KSA Shark ©

The Blues kick start their season with victory over the Force

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news, Super 14 on 15 Feb 2009 at 08:15
Tagged with : ,

Pat Lam’s debut season with the Blues started in perfect fashion on Friday night as his team recorded an impressive 25-19 bonus point victory over the Western Force in Perth.

Trailing 14-8 following a disappointing first half performance, the Blues racked up 17 unanswered points in an inspired 20 minute spell to blow the Force off the park with a blistering attacking display.

James Rigby writes for the Blues website that with the Force boasting a strong winning record at Subiaco Oval it was always going to be a tough assignment first up for the Blues, and although the visitors dominated territory and possession they were unable to convert it to points as the Force scored twice early on.

An individual piece of brilliance by Matt Giteau set AJ Whalley up for the opening try, and when Drew Mitchell pounced on a loose pass to race the length of the field and score the home side built an unexpected lead midway through the opening stanza.

Aimless kicking and some misguided passes proved to be the Blues’ downfall as a number of opportunities went begging, but they clawed their way back late in the first half, Chris Lowrey hitting the line on an angle to catch two defenders napping as he rumbled over for a try on debut.

The Blues were a different outfit in the second half, reducing their kicking errors and producing a spectacular period of running rugby.

Blues veteran Justin Collins was the first to score on the end of a well executed backline move before lock Anthony Boric swooped on a bouncing ball to shrug off two defenders and race to the line for a try.

Taniela Moa provided a constant threat to the Force defence as he mixed up his distribution with clever sniping runs and deft kicks, and it was not long before he too added to the scoreboard after barging over from a quick tap five metres out.

The Force finally managed to hit back with a try of their own to leave the score poised at 25-19 with 10 minutes to go, but the Blues clung on to kick-start their campaign with a vital away win.

“I’m extremely proud of the boys, there was a lot of character shown,” Lam said.

“At half time we went into the changing room and the biggest thing for me was that we were down 14-8 and we knew that we let in a couple of soft tries and we probably hadn’t taken some of the opportunities that we had.

“But we talked about belief in the game plan and belief in each other and the really neat thing was Keven (Mealamu) and Gus (Justin) Collins made a big emphasis about the whole squad and it made a big difference.

“(In the second half) we managed to keep hold of possession a bit better, work some phases and apply some pressure and we scored some good tries.”

The victory may have come at a cost for the Blues however, with hard hitting centre Benson Stanley, captain Keven Mealamu and Taniela Moa all limping off during the match to add to the Blues’ growing
casualty list.

BLUES 25 ( Chris Lowrey, Justin Collins, Anthony Boric, Taniela Moa tries, Paul Williams 1 pen, Jimmy Gopperth 1 con)

FORCE 19 ( AJ Whalley, Drew Mitchell, Tom Hockings tries, Matt Giteau 2 con )

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  • Buoyant Blues call up cover for SA leg

    The Blues have flown in Northland hooker Francis Smith as cover for injured skipper Keven Mealamu and are awaiting medical advice on key midfield back Benson Stanley as they count the cost of a highly promising win over the Western Force to kick of their Super 14 campaign.

    Mealamu strained a calf muscle just five minutes into the Perth match on Friday night but managed to get through to the 51st minute before being pulled as a precaution as the Blues went on to win 25-19, picking up a four-try bonus point.

    Under Sanzar rules the Blues are able to bring in cover for the specialist positions of hooker and halfback and they are talking no risks with Mealamu.

    Stanley was having a scan on what appeared to be a nasty hamstring injury that forced him from the field.

    Blues coach Pat Lam said his squad appeared to have to cover to get by this week as they head to South Africa to take on the Bulls in Pretoria although admitted they were looking a bit thin at wing if further prroblems eventuate.

    In other developments for the triple champions halfback Taniela Moa returns home to Auckland on Saturday to await the birth of his first child, joining Joe Rokocoko and Jerome Kaino in the maternity ward.

    Young halfback Grayson Hart has already joined the squad as cover.

    Lam was thrilled with the first-up win as the Blues came back from an 8-14 halftime deficit to put in a powerful second half display and seal an encouraging victory.

    “There was a lot of character shown,” said Lam who was delighted to get his own Super 14 career off to such a positive start.

    “We had let in a couple of soft tries and not taken some opportunities while our kicking wasn’t as accurate as we would have liked either in the first half.

    “But we came right and it was good to get a good win. It was very pleasing to launch the season with a win and the bonus point.”

    With several of his stars sidelined – injuries to locks Ali and Jay Williams and wing Rudi Wulf – meant Lam and his assistant Shane Howarth had to call on their young brigade early in the championship.

    The benefit of giving many of those players plenty of game time in the preseason outings was shown with some confident displays in Perth.

    “History shows that you can’t win with a select group of players – you need your whole squad,” said Lam.

    The Blues displayed an adventurous approach at times although they had been more calculated in the second spell with a better kicking game setting up a good territorial advantage.

    Lam said it was about adjusting and that would continue this week when they took on the Bulls at Loftus Versfled.

    “It’s a massive challenge now to go to Pretoria and play at altitude and in the heat with a 5pm kickoff. The Blues haven’t won there for a while.”

  • Comment 1, posted at 15.02.09 08:24:06 by KSA Shark © Reply
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