Blues sound warning for run into the finals
Blues coach Leon MacDonald admitted some relief from how his side contained the Fijian Drua's threats to claim a 30-14 victory in Lautoka on Saturday.
MacDonald was proud of the effort in controlling the game and ensuring that it was played at the tempo they wanted and to their strengths.
"This is a big result for us. We have been nervous about it since last year because we know how tough it is. We named our strongest possible team to come over here, and it took everything from that team to get the result.
"I think the Drua are going to knock some teams over on the final run home, so we're glad it's not us.
"There're lots of areas we took control. Our forwards needed to step up. If we were to win, they had to stamp some dominance. They were good in the maul and scrum, which laid the platform for us.
"Knowing the threats, the Fijian Drua possess I thought we nullified them by and large pretty well and they had to empty the tank. It was a torrid event in hard conditions and we showed a lot of grit and determination out there."
They knew there were elements to the Drua game that no other team employed, such as quick taps, quick throw-ins, broken play and turnover ball, so they had spent time preparing for that.
"All that stuff is where they thrive, and we needed to make sure we tried to limit those opportunities for them. We did pretty well given the slippery conditions."
MacDonald said the atmosphere the game was played in was outstanding. The crowd was naturally behind the home team but also showed their appreciation for the Blues during the game.
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The opening to @Fijian_Dura v @BluesRugbyTeam was something to remember.#SuperRugbyPacific #CultureRound pic.twitter.com/iWae2NaZii
"I think every team would like to have the Drua crowd. There was great energy and fun. It was great as a rugby fan to experience this. It has made the competition fantastic."
Captain and flanker Dalton Papali'i said it had been a tough game in the conditions. They knew the Drua would be tough at home.
"We knew we had to focus on ourselves and control the game. It was easy when we have such good leaders in the team I can rely on to really slow it down and take it at our pace. But the lungs really felt it out there."
They realized early that with the slippery ball, they needed to secure it, cherish it, and try to play deep in Drua territory.
"We relied on our scrum leaders this week, the Lay brothers [Jordan and James], Marcel [Renata] and Ofa [Tu'ungafasi] who took it by the handles. We needed to keep believing in our scrum. It has been up and down this year."
He said using their scrum to contain the improving Drua scrum was good for the Blues.
Papali'i said there was a connection between the sides because of Fijian players' role in developing the Blues culture through the years. They understood that and had felt the connection from the moment they arrived.
The Blues host Moana Pasifika at Eden Park on Saturday 6 May at 7.05pm. Get your TICKETS HERE.
The @NSWWaratahs move into the eight and @ChiefsRugby extend their lead ⬆️— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 30, 2023
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