Article written by Oliver Pownall, photos from Graphoc Sport Images
The Blues Development team have bounced back from their loss to Samoa A by beating the Fiji Warriors 41-10 at Waitemata Park on Saturday.
The home side were clinical in scoring five tries to the Fijians one, using quick rucked ball to give the backs the ability to stretch their legs throughout the game.
Bryn Hall opened the scoring for the Blues after nine minutes. The halfback found a gap in the defence from a lineout, running forty metres to score.
The Fiji Warriors were then awarded a penalty straight from the kickoff. Ratunaisa Vatuiranuku slotted the penalty goal to cut the gap 7-3.
A key strength of the Blues performance was their ability to play the game inside the Fijian half of the field as well as maintaining possession.
This territorial dominance resulted in the Blues second try. A chip kick inside the Fijian half found its way into the hands of Waisake Naholo to score out wide.
The sideline conversion from Martin McKenzie made the lead 14-3.
Just minutes later Apisai Nawaqaliva nearly pulled off a stunning intercept for Fiji Warriors with the Blues hot on attack, but was ruled offside.
McKenzie kicked the resulting penalty from right in front, to extend the lead to fourteen points.
On the half hour mark Fiji looked threatening, attacking inside five metres of the Blues line and using the pick and go effectively to inch closer to the line.
The Blues managed to hold their defensive structure and repel waves of Fijian attack, eventually forcing the mistake.
With five minutes to go in the half Martin McKenzie side stepped his way through the defence before finding support from Bryn Hall, who handed off to Lolagi Visinia to score their third try.
The opening fifteen minutes of the second half was much more promising for the Fiji Warriors; the Blues seemed to drop their intensity and focus as the Fijians looked to close the gap.
The strong Fijian contingent in the large crowd became far more vocal as the Fijians began to put pressure on the Blues.
The visitors made the pressure pay off, when Nemani Nadolo was rewarded for his strong performance with a try.
The second five-eighths hit a pass at speed close to the line, scoring under the posts and making it 24-10 and giving the Fijians hope of a comeback.
That try seemed to kick-start the Blues back into life, another McKenzie penalty extended the lead as the Blues looked to secure the victory.
Nadolo looked to have his second try of the game when he broke down the left hand side, but some strong cover defence saw the Fijian captain bundled into touch just short of the line.
Five minutes later the Blues scored their fourth try when substitute Nathan Vella, with help from the rolling maul from a line out, crossed to make it 34-10 to the home side.
The Blues final try came when Alua Silipa picked up the ball before the ruck could fully form ten metres from the Fijian try line and waltzed in under the posts.
The Fijian Warriors just couldn’t match the tempo the Blues played at and as a 41-10 result is an accurate summation of the teams’ performances.†
They did not seem to value possession and territory as much as the Blues. As a result they were forced onto the back foot where the Blues backs could hit the defensive line at speed.
Captain, and try scorer, Nemani Nadolo was the Fiji Warriors best player on the day, making several breaks and leading by example.
As for the Blues, Martin McKenzie was the stand out in the backline.
The First five-eighths led the side around the park well, and a strong kicking game meant the Blues were rarely put under pressure in their own half.
In the pack, flankers Sean Polwart and William Whetton were both very good in winning the battle at the breakdown for the Blues.
The strapped up Polwart in particular, battled bravely throughout. He was routinely being seen to by the trainers in the second half, after being battered by the Fijians.
Blues coach Bevan Cadwallander was, unsurprising, delighted with his teams all round performance.
“I was pleased with our improved discipline and our structure around the park, I thought the whole 23 worked well today.”
Blues Development 41 (B Hall, W Naholo, L Visinia, N Vella, A Silipa tries, M McKenzie 5 con, 2 pen)
Fiji Warriors 10 (N Nadolo try, R Vatuiranuku 1 con, 1 pen)