The Waratahs have blown hot and cold over the past few seasons picking up wins against teams like the Crusaders and then losing to the Sunwolves in the same season. The Blues have also been perennial New Zeeland underachievers despite fielding quality teams over many years.
This was never going to be the game of the season, but definitely an important one for both teams. Both want to get out under the shadows of the teams dominating in their respective countries.
The game started with some good attacking play from the Waratahs, but the Blues were the first to score. The far more organized play of the Waratahs was notable and can definitely be a basis to build a promising season on.
For the 2nd week in a row young Mark Nawaqanitawase impressed on the left-wing for the Waratahs. Playing way above his age level in maturity and with intelligence. He is staking an early claim for one of those Wallaby jerseys in the winter tests…
The huge rains in Newcastle made handling a bit more difficult and although there were a number of fumbles, both teams really did well to keep possession of the ball.
The Blues were definitely trying to also rebuild after previous seasons by being more disciplined in all facets of the game. Their execution of it was just slightly better than that of the Waratahs in the first half. They also took the points on offer and eased out to their 0-8 lead after 25 minutes.
The difference between the two teams was mostly down to the work without the ball. The Waratahs were a bit more sluggish waiting to see what would unfold. The Blues worked hard to get back into good defensive lines and get into a position to be effective in attack.
The 7-8 halftime score was a fair reflection of the efforts of both teams. Neither was flawless and it was some credit for both teams, but the Blues were definitely the best in the first half.
The Blues however decided to rain on the Waratahs parade and jumped out to a 7-20 lead shortly after halftime.
Despite the Mark Nawaqanitawase try to help wake you up a bit towards the end of the 2nd half, the quick tries by Mark Telea helped flatter the Blues with a 12-32 victory.
The discipline of the Waratahs in their phased attack and set phases was a lot better than it had been for a few years. It is clear that they want to put their hand up and let everyone know that the Aussie conference is not just about the Brumbies.
Throughout the first half, they were decent in most areas across the park, but they allowed the Blues to bully them especially at ruck time. This made it very difficult for them to stop the attack of the Blues and to get go-forward ball themselves.
The effort just before half time to go through 17 phases to take the score to 7-8 was a good confidence boost. Their patience was rewarded and hopefully, they learn from the results of this phase of play for the rest of the season.
Despite the brilliant try from Mark Nawaqanitawase for the Waratahs, the last quarter of the game turned into a snore-fest. The Mark Talea try to seal the victory for the Blues just barely helped to wake you up
The Blues were a bit lucky to get in for their first try after a messy lineout, but it just showed that there is enough in this inexperienced team to get points on the board when needed.
The advantage line was just breached by the Blues more effectively than their opposition and more regularly. It made things difficult for the Waratahs as they constantly had to turn around.
Through dominance, at scrum time Karl Tu’inukuafe definitely put a hand up both for the Blues and for new All Blacks coach, Ian Foster, to take notice.
Work at the ruck has however been the biggest improvement by the Blues team. If they can keep their physical dominance at ruck time throughout the 2020 season, they will be able to set up their very dangerous backs to punish opposition teams.
An important thing to remember is that the Blues put up a performance like this with 10 injured players in their squad…
Waratahs: Michael Hooper (7), Mark Nawaqanitawase (11) Kurtley Beale (15)
Blues: Karl Tu’inukuafe (1), Patrick Tuipulotu (4), Blake Gibson (7), Hoskins Sotutu (8), Stephen Perofeta (10), Mark Telea (11)
ThysRugby player of the game: Mark Nawaqanitawase was sensational again and will no doubt be a Wallaby in the next few months.
Best plays of the game
- Mark Nawaqanitawase’s little faked kick resulting in defenders overrunning and gaining some extra meters
- Karl Tu’inukuafe dominating his opposing tighthead and dismantling the opposition scrum
- 17 phases just before halftime by the Waratahs to get over for a try
- Blues defending their own line at the scrum earning a penalty on the Waratahs throw 5m from the Blues’ own line
- Mark Nawaqanitawase try after multiple phases in the corner. Incredible handling by the Waratahs in wet conditions
Waratahs: The team overall is on the up. Their physicality at breakdowns was just below average. If they keep getting dominated in the contact situation, they will struggle for the rest of the season.
Blues: A welcome return to winning ways away from home. Their first in a few years. They don’t look like a pedigree side yet, but there is some promise in the team. When they are back to full strength it would be interesting to see what they can do.