Kir­wan’s Blues su­perb in Perth

Western Force left in shock

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - Richard Knowler

‘‘No ex­cuses’’ was John Kir­wan’s war-cry be­fore the Blues pul­verised the Western Force 40-14 in Perth.

The Blues had not won away from Auck­land since Fe­bru­ary 3 last year but when the fi­nal whis­tle sounded at nib Sta­dium yes­ter­day morn­ing noone could dis­pute that Kir­wan’s gang had snapped their 13-game los­ing se­quence in style.

Kir­wan de­manded his play­ers show some ticker and he got it: a blis­ter­ing first 18 min­utes, in which the tourists’ re­lent­less waves of at­tack re­sulted in tries to Ihaia West, Char­lie Fau­muina, Lo­lagi Visinia and Ma’a Nonu, left the Force tack­lers star­ing at the stars in be­muse­ment. The Force play­ers were not the only ones to won­der what was go­ing on: many Blues sup­port­ers will have ques­tioned why their side had not pro­duced such ef­forts on the road much ear­lier in the sea­son.

It is a sen­ti­ment Kir­wan would strug­gle to dis­pute but if any­one wanted to get bol­shie on the is­sue he would counter that his side still have a chance of mak­ing the play­offs.

Vic­to­ries over the Cru­saders and Chiefs in their fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son games could lift the eighth-placed Blues in­side the top six – but that re­mains a long shot and re­quires other sides to stum­ble.

Given the way the Cru­saders bum­bled about in their 16-9 loss to the Hur­ri­canes in Welling­ton a few hours ear­lier, Kir­wan must be op­ti­mistic about his side’s chances in next Satur­day night’s match in Christchurch.

While the Blues backs were ram­pant in Perth the Cru­saders looked a dis­ori­ented bunch as Colin Slade and Tom Tay­lor were put un­der im­mense pres­sure when mak­ing exit kicks.

Al­though Dan Carter made his re­turn from his six-month sab­bat­i­cal in the sec­ond half, when Slade failed a con­cus­sion test, he could not gen­er­ate the much-needed elec­tric­ity for a side which, for long pe­ri­ods, looked dis­or­gan­ised and flat.

In­stead it was Canes for­ward Blade Thom­son, who started at lock but later shifted into the back row as in­jury cover, who stuffed the Cru­saders with his two tries.

Thom­son’s sec­ond was a pear­ler; when Tay­lor failed to defuse a Cory Jane grub­ber and the 1.98m for­ward ripped it out of the air and burst 50m down­field to score the match-win­ner.

Cru­saders coach Todd Blackadder fi­nally em­ployed his bench play­ers in the sec­ond spell, in­clud­ing No 8 Kieran Read and tight­head prop Owen Franks, but al­though the for­wards clearly had an edge in the set-pieces the Hur­ri­canes de­fence held firm.

Fol­low­ing his side’s 29-25 loss to the High­landers in Dunedin on Fri­day night, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie knows win­ning in Welling­ton next Fri­day evening is im­per­a­tive.

The Hur­ri­canes, who have the bye in the fi­nal round, will build up to this as if it is a test match. The Chiefs could still qual­ify for the fi­nals but those chances hang by a thread.

In­juries to in­flu­en­tial Canes’ play­ers Vic­tor Vito and Ala­p­ati Leiua may as­sist the Chiefs’ cause but Rennie will be more con­cerned about how to get the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons in the right men­tal state af­ter they were out-pas­sioned by the High­landers. All New Zealan­ders will be root­ing for the High­landers as they joust with the re­ju­ve­nated Waratahs in Syd­ney. The New South Welsh­men de­stroyed the in­juryrav­aged Brumbies 39-8 in Syd­ney, the bonus-point vic­tory pro­pel­ling them to the top of the com­pe­ti­tion ta­ble. No South African teams played be­cause of the Spring­boks-Scot­land test.


Too pow­er­ful: Ma’a Nonu scored a try as the Blues kept their Su­per Rugby play­off hopes alive with a 40-14 thrash­ing of the Force in Perth.

Just do it: John Kir­wan’s call to arms was heeded by the Blues.

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