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Blues shake off Crusaders ghosts and set sights on Moana Pasifika

Blues shake off Crusaders ghosts and set sights on Moana Pasifika

All BlacksMarch 25, 2024

Putting their Crusaders bogey behind them, the Blues immediately set their sights on their next opponent, Moana Pasifika, in DHL Super Rugby Pacific at the weekend.

Coach Vern Cotter said removing the Crusaders monkey from their back and enjoying a first win over them at home in a decade was important.

But they made it hard for themselves in the first half by making basic errors that kept the Crusaders in the game. He attributed that to a lack of composure and some stress associated with playing the Crusaders.

"Hopefully, we can put that behind us now that the victory is there and the boys found a way.

"The second half was very good. We made the most of their halfback being sin-binned. Defensively, they had a few problems. They couldn't clear ball well, and the boys focused on that going back out [after halftime]."

While it was a win, Cotter was determined that everyone kept their feet on the ground.

Cotter said the Crusaders felt the absence of locks Quinten Strange and Scott Barrett. It would have been a different story had they been playing.

"But we're going to take it as it comes. We had some good lineout plans during the week and Laghlan [McWhannell] managed to get up and steal a lot of their ball and set us up well."

Replacement fullback Cole Forbes gave some thrust and helped get the Blues over the advantage line.

"He broke tackles and as soon as we started going forward in the middle of the paddock we were able to slip the ball a bit wider. We started finding breaches. If we had scored a couple more tries that would have been nice too, but we've got to keep developing those phases that create opportunities to score."

Like father, like son 😌#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/n8Y9GUd58T

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) March 23, 2024

That would be important in preparing to meet Moana Pasifika in Auckland on Saturday.

Cotter said, "They're an improved side and with our game plan, and how we play up front, there's going to be a battle up from. So we're going to back up after this physical game into another physical game."

The turnaround in first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta's goal-kicking, especially, was down to some conversations during the week.

"He worked hard around his goal-kicking and how he organised play. He had a game plan that was reasonably simple for him and Finn [halfback Finlay Christie] and the rest of the team, and that's a sign of a champion.

"He didn't have a great week last week and was frustrated, but he put that frustration behind him and he crafted his week well and got the results."

Cotter said it was a case of him getting his routine right, but his kicking game on Saturday had given his running game confidence.

"He's a very instinctive player and he sees space well. It was a great performance and a great turnaround."

Captain Patrick Tuipulotu, who celebrated his 100th game for the Blues, said his focus had been on playing well. If he had focused on his milestone, he wouldn't have done himself justice.

"It was good to get out there and get a full 80 [minutes], and especially with the injury run I've had. I've set myself up for the next run of games and, hopefully, set our team up for the next block of games as well."

He said the team needed to capitalise on the opportunities created, and they would work on that as they approach an important stage of the season.

Here is how things shake out after Kids Round!

Where is your team sitting on the #SuperRugbyPacific ladder? 🪜 pic.twitter.com/dB4x4WFgGC

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) March 23, 2024

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