Stormers v Blues: A great away win under the microscope

Stargazer

Stargazer

March 1st, 2020

The Blues can look back on a great tour two South Africa tour, going home with two wins. Who would have predicted that at the beginning of the season?


Having some time on my hand and the benefit of recording the game on MySky and being able to rewind, I made extensive notes of the Stormers v Blues game and put it under the microscope, particularly to look at the performance of the Blues. Were the Blues really that great, or …?

Let me start with this, the Blues win was awesome and I’m nothing taking away from that. As a team, they could only play what was in front of them - to use a familiar cliché - but it has to be said, the Stormers were awful. They made so many mistakes and gave away so many penalties that Otēre Black’s boot worked overtime. Black was responsible for 18 of the Blues 33 points alone, 12 of them from penalty goals.

Black’s return has come just in time for the Blues’ tour. Otēre steering the ship has made such a difference to the Blues’ performance! There can’t be any doubt that he must wear that 10 jersey until Barrett is fully operational. At the same time, Perofeta seems to feel right at home at fullback, making clear again today that that’s his right spot, not first five-eighth. He had some nice touches in this game, too, particularly that nice break in the lead-up to Marchant’s first try.

Speaking of the wingers, Merchant had a very good game and scored two awesome tries. Mark Tele’a also showed promise. While not able to finish his attacks with a try today, it was Telea who drew in defenders while trying to find a hole in the Stormers’ defensive line in the 40th minute, thus creating an overlap for his team mates, which eventually resulted in a great team try for the Blues, Marchant’s second. Unfortunately, a small blight on Telea’s performance was the yellow card, which IMO was fair.

Best Blues stats: clean breaks / defenders beaten:
Perofeta 2 / 5
Marchant 2 / 5
Telea 1 / 9
Sotutu 1 / 6

Nock has, I think, done enough in this game to earn himself another start next week. Although he started a bit slow, his passing is much better than Ruru’s. His defence wasn’t tested enough, but he did make all four of his tackles. It will be interesting to see how he goes against the Canes.

Now, the forwards. There were fewer stand-outs for me in the pack, but Tuipulotu showed great leadership and lead by example. He was dominant both on attack and defence. Papali’i also had a good game. Less consistently, also Robinson and Eklund were good, particularly on defence.


Best Blues stats: tackles:
Eklund: made 9 tackles, missed 0
Robinson: made 6, missed 1
Tu’ungafasi, Tuipulotu, Telea: made 5, missed 0

The Blues dominated the breakdown. The the stats on turnovers don’t quite reflect how much better than the Stormers they were IMO, with ESPN reporting 13 turnovers conceded by the Stormers against the 10 from the Blues.

Unfortunately, there were also areas that didn’t go so well. While the stats show that the Blues won 100% of their scrum, this doesn’t reflect how the scrums went. There were an awful lot of resets, and both Mafileo and Karl T struggled at times; I assume that’s why Ofa Tu’ungafasi was subbed on early. The line-out throws need some improvement, too, with Eklund responsible for a few wobbly throws. Passing wasn’t always good in this game either, with particularly TJ Faiane butchering a few chances on attack, although a great wide pass to Marchant (for his first try) was awesome.

And now, Rieko. Is centre his spot? Not sure. He was very ineffective in the first half; missed an absolutely crucial tackle, the one that lead to the second Stormers’ try. A failed grubber kick, bad offload (leading to a knock on) and a few other mistakes, it wasn’t his day, despite making most runs and metres run. All in all, Rieko didn’t have a great game, but that may just be because of the positional switch or the fact that he returned from injury.

Sotutu was completely invisible in the first half, but seemed to get into the game a bit more in the second half, with a nice break early in the half, and good defence. Nice try-saving tackle at the end of the game from the man on debut, Tolai.


My verdict:
The Stormers were bad, really bad. Several line-outs went wrong, either not straight or overthrown. Multiple knock ons and bad passes, but their scrambling defence held reasonably well at times, especially if you consider what the Blues threw at them. They did force the Blues to make mistakes.

The Blues were good, some really nice attacks resulting in well-deserved tries, but I can’t help thinking that they should have done more in this game and secured the bonus point. Nevertheless, it’s a great result, not having won in Cape Town for 16 years, so they can only be happy with that.

Two wins from the South Africa tour, 8 points in the bag. Well done!

Final point: I hope the Citing Commissioner will have another good look, with the help of more camera angles, at that high tackle from the Stormers no. 19 on Duffie. Direct contact with the head, should IMO have been, at least, a yellow card. Not that it would have mattered with half a minute to go, but he seemed to deserve it.

My MVP: shared between Black and Marchant
Best backs: Black, Marchant, followed by Perofeta
Best forward: Tuipulotu, followed by Papali’i
Disappointing: R Ioane, Karl T
Quiet (compared to previous games): Sotutu


Full time: Stormers 14 - 33 Blues (HT: 14 - 27)

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