The ‘embarrassed’ Blues need to produce a vastly improved all-round performance if they are to overcome the Force in Perth on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Blues were outplayed in virtually every department as they slumped to a 43-5 defeat against the Lions at Ellis Park last Saturday. Besides leaking seven tries and scoring just one, they conceded 21 turnovers, missed 20 tackles and lost five lineouts.
In the wake of that performance, assistant coach Glenn Moore admitted: ‘There's a fair amount of embarrassment about how we played, so it won't take a lot to get a mindset and attitude shift.’
The Blues have resisted making wholesale changes to the team despite the nature of their defeat, but scrumhalf Bryn Hall and fullback Lolagi Visinia have been dropped. As a result, Matt Duffie comes in on the right wing with Melani Nanai shifting to fullback, while Billy Guyton will get his second start of the season at No 9.
The Blues have also been boosted by the return of Super Rugby centurion Josh Bekhuis, who has overcome a calf injury and will look to solidify his side’s shaky lineout on his return to the second row.
The Auckland-based side will also be aware that the Force are coming off a bye, which was preceded by a good win over the Sunwolves that ended a seven-match losing streak. Unsurprisingly then, the only change to their team sees fit-again Ben Tapuai starting at outside centre.
Both sides are dwelling at the bottom of their respective conferences, and while the Blues should back themselves to bounce back from last weekend’s embarrassing defeat, they’ll know that they certainly need to clean up their act from Ellis Park.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Blues 7, Force 1, Draw 1
In Perth: Blues 3, Force 0, Draw 1
– The Force have lost their last four games at home when hosting a team from New Zealand, scoring an average of just 12 points per game in that span and conceding 31.
– The Blues have won only one of their last 14 games away from home (drawn one, lost 12), although they are yet to lose consecutive away games this season.
– Ihaia West has kicked 21 successful penalty goals so far this season, the most of any player, and has missed eight further attempts.
– Matt Hodgson has made 145 tackles so far this season and is five shy of becoming the first player to make 150. He currently sits 26 tackles above second-ranked Michael Hooper.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Force||Peter Grant (45)||Marcel Brache (3)||Dane Haylett-Petty (718)||Matt Hodgson (145)|
|Blues||Ihaia West (110)||Melani Nanai (4)||Tevita Li (437)||Blake Gibson (81)|
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Ian Prior, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Subs: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Billy Guyton, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Male Sa’u.
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images