Not only winning their two opening matches but, at the return of professional rugby there has been unheralded success for the Blues Super Rugby franchise in what is an incredibly ‘jolted’ season.
With the Coronavirus pandemic ending the regular Super Rugby season just as the Blues Super Rugby team had won four matches and were looking at more success, that dream run could have ended prematurely. Yet now, with two more solid wins under their belt, the Patrick Tuipulotu led team tops the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings.
Unheralded placing, as the Blues seemed to occupy the lower reaches of the ladder in recent years. Now, a rejuvenation within the franchise is boosting their confidence and the chances of finally competing with all their domestic New Zealand teams. Something many have suggested but after recent results, it is becoming a reality.
Think about it. After such a ‘jolt’ to the system, after the long break and upset to the players and coaches planning, they have bounced back tremendously. With no better example than on Saturday night.
Blues 24 – Tries: Hoskins Sotutu, Mark Telea; Penalties: Otere Black (2), Beauden Barrett; Conversion: Black; Drop goal: Barrett
Chiefs 12 – Pens: Damian McKenzie (4)
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) June 20, 2020
Blues Super Rugby team of 2020 continues ‘unreal shift’
For many years, small successes were accepted as peaks for the Blues. Back-to-back wins came in an irregular fashion, offshore wins were especially hard to achieve. So when the 2020 Super Rugby season began, nobody dared to dream it would go so well.
Beginning with a win over the Waratahs in February that was followed by a sensational back-to-back series of wins in South Africa. Firstly over the Bulls, but more so over the conference-leading Stormers. That win was tremendous, as it earned respect which the Auckland team had not engendered from either rugby observers or their fanbase consistently.
Quickly followed by a character-building win over their domestic rivals the Hurricanes. This was the same rival who opened the Blues Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign on June 13. On both occasions, the more powerful ‘Canes just weren’t able to overcome a stubborn Blues team. Not the pushover anymore.
And the reason for this change? How did Leon MacDonald instill this newfound confidence? Not over complicating things is one factor. MacDonald also spoke about how important it was to stay focused on individual execution. “Our good form from earlier this year is a bit irrelevant now.
“That said the team knows that if they put in the quality hard work during the week then they can take some confidence into game day to focus on their execution”.
Week Two win in Hamilton the Blues’ first in 10 years
Even after the opening round win in front of a full house was added to the run of four straight wins, it would still be a challenge to travel to Hamilton and face their border foes. Playing at a near-capacity FMG Stadium Waikato, the rare opportunity to take away a win which was not guaranteed.
What they achieved after 80 minutes though, has continued the unheralded success. Creating a franchise record of four straight wins away from home, this sixth win in a row was earned in the second half. The fact they held off the Chiefs when down to 14 men showed dedication and resilience – not seen in a blue jersey for over a decade. Built on the shoulders of their skipper, who bulldozed his opponents, in a way that inspires his teammates and is creating a testament to the 2020 group’s culture.
One now that allows them to control the Chiefs attack so that, the only points came from Damian McKenzie’s boot. Unthinkable in the last few seasons.
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) June 23, 2020
After gaining the second win pushes them into the lead. One that all New Zealand rugby followers know that – until all the Bye rounds are considered – is only valid until that side matches up against Crusaders. So while that first CRUvBLU encounter isn’t scheduled until Week Five, it will not diminish what the Blues Super Rugby side has accomplished to date.
Stringing wins together is hard. Just ask the Chiefs and Hurricanes. Be it in the regular season, or in this domestic competition, results need to go your way. So when the Blues host the Highlanders on Saturday, June 27, fans won’t arrive wondering ‘if’.
now They’re are thinking ‘yes we can’.
And if anything can be learned from sport, it is, confidence from the stands is transmitted onto the field. Another big crowd will prove that. Another win will prove that the Blues local derby matches are ‘real’ contests. Some, like NZME sports columnist Phil Gifford has even written that they are “the real deal”.
Considering what a jolt to the system that the Covid-19 scare should have been, it is a credit to the Blues that they have carried their form through. That, and some.
“Main photo credit”
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