While the Blues v Crusaders match was a tense, close encounter the same could not be said when their development teams met earlier in the day, the Blues Development securing a comprehensive 51-7 victory over the Crusader Knights.
In their first hit-out of the season, the development team scored seven tries to one, with Blues first five-eighths Gareth Anscombe hauling a personal tally of 22 points.
Head Coach Jeff Wilson said he was thrilled with the first up result, believing every player was to be commended for their efforts.
“Everyone played their part. Once the boys got a roll on and their confidence picked up they played the type of rugby players dream of.”
Wilson said Anscombe’s tactical kicking put the team in the right parts of the field, but he was given quality ball to work with courtesy of an impressive performance from the forward pack.
“He was able to play so well because of the work the forwards were doing. They were great at set piece and did everything that was asked of them.”
The development team had five players drop down from the Blues squad for the match, all aiming to prove the point that they belong in the top team.
“The guys from the Blues were really positive and they carried on from the form they showed in pre-season. Filo (Paulo) was captain and he led by example, Peter (Saili) was solid for 80 minutes and Liaki (Moli) had a really strong work rate.”
Wilson expects some of the Blues players that took part in the match to head to South Africa this weekend, forcing him to name a changed line up for this weekend’s battle against the Chiefs Development team.
“We will lose a lot of experience this weekend but the challenge is for these young guys to keep their standards high ñ the expectation is for them to be consistent and back up their performances.”
The players from the Blues Wider Training Group showed the benefits of their hard work over the last few months; Wilson said they all fronted with solid performances.
With the majority of players in the team having ITM Cup experience it was a chance for Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Michigan Lam and Malakai Fekitoa to step up, the three players selected from their form in Under 20s.
“They knew what was expected and stepped up to the challenge. Ofa has a great energy and presence on the field and competed very well. Malakai got a lot of game time as he came on early to cover an injury, he worked hard and improved during the game. Michigan came on when the game was won but still worked hard and was able to execute our plans well.”
Wilson said more Under 20 players would be brought into the team while the Blues are in South Africa, giving them the opportunity to gain experience against some tough opposition.
Fullback Dave Thomas was the only player in the casualty ward, picking up a hamstring injury which Wilson said is yet to be fully assessed.
The Blues Development team head to Thames on Saturday to play the Chiefs Development team.
Wilson said he enjoyed taking the team to a rural community because they are always welcomed by great crowds.
Blues Development team 51 (G Anscombe (2), N Tuitavake (2), Fekitoa, Ahki, Wright tries; G Anscombe 2 pen, 3 con, M Lam 2 con)
Crusader Knights 7 (Llewellyn try, T Elkington con)
Halftime : 27-7
Blues Development v Chiefs Development
Saturday 3 March, kick off 2.30pm
Rhode Park, Thames