Monkey is off the back


First, congrats to the Blues and their fans. Monkey is off the back, losing streak in Chch broken. I hope you celebrated big, or are still going to! It was a fun game to watch, although the red card spoilt it for a while, but that’s exactly why I think the 20 min red card rule is correct.

My man of the match was Dalton Papali’i, who had a huge game. If Sam Cane wasn’t the ABs captain, it would be a close battle between those two for the black 7 jersey. On form, I could see Paps winning that battle.

Props

Moody was good and sad to see him go off injured. I think it influenced the game in that it weakened the already weakened Crusaders pack. Too many lightweight youngsters in that Saders pack. Also good was Hodgman - I hope he’s okay - who clearly had the better of Jager. Not sure he’ll be back in black this year, though, although I’d pick him over Bower.

Hooker

Taylor was very good. He’s gradually getting back to his best form. His line-out throwing was on point and if the Crusaders had a stronger pack, I think he would have scored more than one try off the driving maul. Someone on the Fern predicted that Jackson wouldn’t come on. He was right haha. Good try to Eklund. Didn’t notice Riccitelli doing something dumb yesterday.

Locks

Big Romano, especially his size and experience were crucial in the Blues’ pack; he was also hardly penalised for things that deserved penalising (going in from the side, offside). Barrett, see below, but when he’s not doing stupid things, he’s been the best lock in the country and being sent off hurt the Crusaders big time. It forced an inexperienced 20-year old to play 80 minutes, where otherwise he’d have been subbed off.

Loosies

Already mentioned DP; Sotutu also had a great game. Good work rate makes a big difference and he showed he’s worth that black jersey. Blackadder and Robinson were very evenly matched and went about their business as they should, but nothing spectacular. Didn’t see in last night’s game why Robinson is so talked-up by Blues fans. Probably not the game for it. Matera had good impact and should probably have come on sooner.

Halfbacks

Christie definitely the best halfback on the field, but I still find him too flaky and not always taking the right options. Knocked himself (almost) out. I hope he’s okay.

Bryn Hall needs a break. How terrible was he? I’m not a fan of TTT but maybe he should be on the bench in the next few games. Box kicks, especially when badly executed, yuck.

First Fives

BB was good in the first half, but I still don’t think he plays like a 10. He’s a good ball runner, but his kicking game is awful. Mo’unga, who has looked like playing with the handbrake on all season, took it off when SB was sent off and was his brilliant old self. One missed tackle. Was that the one where he was taken out by Hall? It was costly.

Midfield

Rieko was outstanding. That try saving tackle also saved the win for the Blues, although it was on an rookie lock. If it had been a back , today’s story would have probably have been different. But let’s not focus on just that tackle, he was great all game.

Havili had a weak game on defence, but on attack he was good; again crucial in the creation of tries. The card was a soft one. With the speed they had, it all happened in the momentum of the tackle and I don’t think he had a way of avoiding what happened. Anyway, the letter of the law was applied, not common sense, so the card was given. Can’t really further argue with that.

Braydon Ennor, did he play? Completely invisible and outplayed. Fainga’anuku should have played in the midfield. Didn’t see any reason in RTS’ 15 minutes on the field of why he should be an AB. He needs more game time.

Wings

Fainga’anuku’s strength is wasted on the wing. I like him more in the midfield. Still, a quiet game and he hardly got the ball. I hardly noticed the Blues wings either. I guess it wasn’t a game for wingers, unless you’re called Reece. Two good tries.

Fullback

I really like Perofeta, but prefer him at 10. Maybe they should swap him and BB. Best fullback on the field was no doubt Jordan. It’s such a pleasure to watch him play! I’d really like to see more of Sullivan. Didn’t have much impact in his 19 minutes.

Referee

He was mostly good, and Blues fans will be happy. I saw something dodgy that eventually lead to one of the Blues’ tries, with Blues players being well offside, that wasn’t penalised, but I can’t be bothered to go looking for it in the game to see if the ref was right or not. It’s good that this Blues’ win has brought some excitement back to the comp.

Red card

Before the game I already thought he was the main candidate for a red card, and SB didn’t disappoint. Same level of stupid shit as Laulala’s shoulder hit, so should expect same verdict: red card upheld, 6-week mid-range entry point, 50% reduction for clean sheet, remorse blah blah, and then being offered the extra “head contact coaching intervention” to get a week of his 3-match ban. Sitting out 2 games. I disagree with this, but if Laulala only gets two weeks off, then SB should get the same. Unlike Laulala, SB still has great value for the ABs, he’s been the form lock of the comp thus far, so it shouldn’t have consequences for his ABs selection.

Overall

Great game to watch. The Blues have been steadily building the last few years, with some good recruitment. The Crusaders, I think they’ve not gone backward, that depth is still there, but injuries and other absences have forced them to bring in young rookies far sooner than I think they planned, and all at the same time, and that has hurt them a bit.

I’d like to see these teams back in the final, with both being full strength. Whether that happens, depends on the games against the Aussies: will complacency set in, how will the officiating affect the games, more injuries, covid etc.

Now waiting for the next game to begin. Have a great weekend everyone!

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