The Blues put a week of off-field distractions behind them with a character filled 21-13 victory over the Waratahs at Eden Park tonight.
After a horror 39-20 defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington last week and Benji Marshall’s sudden departure from the team, the spotlight was certainly on the under-siege Blues.
However they responded in emphatic fashion, beating up the Wallaby-laden Waratahs in a hugely physical encounter.
Jerome Kaino was simply immense. Kirwan demanded more physicality from his side against the Tahs and Kaino delivered that in spades. The enforcer was ferocious in defence, hammering the Waratahs behind the advantage line all night along with Keven Mealamu and Luke Braid.
Ma’a Nonu was also instrumental in the Blues’ victory, running the ball hard at the line, turning the visitors backwards with some well weighted grubber kicks and firing out passes into space.
The Blues’ struggles away from home continue, but at Eden Park they remain undefeated with four wins.
Their four points keeps the Blues in touch with the other New Zealand teams and moves them into eighth overall with the Reds their next opponent at Eden Park on Friday night.
There were ominous signs for the Blues early on when Adam Ashley Cooper made easy inroads through the defence and almost set up Rob Horne for a try after just one minute, however the TMO picked up a clear double movement to rule it out.
Back in the starting XV after Chris Noakes was ruled out with concussion, young gun Simon Hickey had a fine game and got his team on the scoreboard with a penalty kick after seven minutes before Lolagi Visinia scored a superb try on the 20 minute mark.
The livewire wing soared high into the air to reclaim his own kick before Nonu made a break to get within 10 metres of the try line.
After Patrick Tuipulotu carted the ball up to suck in the defenders, Nonu threw a huge cut out pass to Visinia who finished off the movement by beating two defenders and diving over in the corner to score.
Bernard Foley slotted a penalty kick to narrow the deficit to 8-3 at halftime before fantastic interplay by Visinia and Charles Piutau put Francis Saili through a gap who showed plenty of strength to brush off Rob Horne and stretch out to ground the ball over the try line.
Hickey nailed the conversion from the sideline to give the Blues an 18-3 lead after 54 minutes but the Waratahs finally managed to hit back moments later through bruising lock Jacques Potgeiter.
Following a period of sustained pressure, the Waratahs finally found a way through the Blues’ watertight defence as Potgeiter crashed over from close range to get the visitors back in the game at 18-10.
Foley then edged his side even closer with a penalty kick, but Hickey responded with his own three pointer with nine minutes remaining to put the result beyond doubt.