Blues A review vs Hurricanes Hunters

I just arrived back from the Hurricanes Hunters v Blues A game. I’ll report the general and Blues A part in this thread, the general and Hunters’ part in the Hurricanes 2020 thread.

It was a game of two halves, but not two equal halves. The Hunters had about 95% of territory in the first half and had most of the possession; I think the Blues only entered the Hunters’ half about 3-4 times, only to lose possession immediately and enabling the Hunters’ to enter the Blues’ half again. It’s a credit to the Blues’ defence that they didn’t concede more than one try, because the Hunters’ threw everything at them.

In that first half, the Hunters dominated the scrum and had several line-outs that went well. The Blues had only a few line-outs, which also went well. I think I only saw one line-out steal by the Hunters. The Blues had to defend quite a bit in their own 22 and managed to make a few turnovers. The Hunters came close to scoring a few times, but then someone dropped the ball, knocked it on or threw it straight at a Blues player, leaving the Hunters with a miserable 5 point lead at the break. Based on how that first half went, the Hunters should have led at least by 15-20 points, but ball handling let them down (the Blues can take some credit for that).

The second half was a different story; very different. I don’t know what was said during the break, but it worked for the Blues. Most noticeable was that the Blues didn’t kick possession away as much and used the line-out way more often in that second half. It was Tolai who scored the Blues’ first try not long after the break from a line-out maul. The second try was scored from the pick ‘n go, I couldn’t see by who, at about 54 minutes. Tamati Tua scored a nice try in the approx. the 68’ and Kianu Kereru-Symes scored the try of the game when he caught a high ball and went for a solo run to the Hunters’ try line and they couldn’t stop him from dotting down (approx. 76th min). Riedlinger-Kapa had the final say with a try in the last seconds of the game. All in all, a great second half from the Blues and a well-deserved win!

About some individual players:
Tolai looked good (some good carries) and it was a big arm wrestle with Riccitelli. He made two huge tackles and both players didn’t come out undamaged. In a SR game, Tolai would have been taken off for a HIA; in this game, the doctor talked to him for about 3-4 minutes while he was sitting on his knees and after play resumed, he looked a bit out of it for 5 minutes. IMO he should have been taken off at that point, but he played on and played well, and was replaced in about the 65th minute.

Kereru-Symes also went well. I sat close to family/friends of his, and overheard them talk about him. He’s definitely a member of the main squad now. His line-out throws were solid and held his own in the scrum, too. By then, Riccitelli was replaced by O’Reilly.

Some of the Blues players were wearing jerseys without numbers and I don’t recognise all of them, so it’s hard to say a lot about other players.

Finlay Christie was still very rusty and was one of the players who butchered some of the Blues’ attacks in the first half. Wobbly passes, forward passes, knock ons, bad box kicks … Jack Heighton was only marginally better at 10. Strangely enough, Zarn Sullivan didn’t replace him at 10 (I couldn’t see who he replaced, not sure it was the fullback), but had a positive influence on the game in the second half. He came on in about the 48th minute. I’m not sure whether Niko Jones is ready for SR, yet. He’s quite small and struggled against the Hunters’ loosies in the first half. He conceded several turnovers and knocked the ball on a few times. He may need a bit more time. He was replaced at half time.

Finally, I had the impression that the Hunters started losing the game more due to their own substitutions than due to the Blues subs, as far as the players on the field are concerned. And as I said, they changed things up in their game plan, which worked very well in the 2nd half.

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