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April 5, 2004 | by  | in Opinion |
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Blues Fail, But Blues Nonetheless

The Hurricanes versus the Blues
The Cake Tin, Friday 26 March
Match report by Alexander R Bisley

Last time I was at the Cake Tin to see the Hurricanes take on the Blues it was a very depressing affair. They were caned 60 to 7 by the slick 2002 Auckland side. My diehard rugbyhead mate looked about as gutted as when we lost that game to the French. My German amigo – tired of everything in Wellington being better to his beloved Deutschland – sat there gloating, “this is kinda pathetic,” which was all the more annoying because it was true. Then there was a group of obnoxious Aucklanders nearby dancing and revelling with more noise and enthusiasm than those ‘liberated’ Iraqis on Fox News.

Fortunately, this time in the Tin, I enjoyed myself as the Canes put in a solid effort drawing 26 all with the Blues in a suspenseful, nerve-racking game that went down to the wire. Blue Orene Ai’i, or the “magician” as he is known to some scribes, missed two drop goals in the final few minutes, including an easy chance just before the buzzer went.

The Canes have a melancholy history with the Blues. The Blues have won everytime since the two sides played in the Super 12’s inaugural game at the Palmerston North Showgrounds back in 1996. So it was pleasing that the Blues, staring down the gun of being only the second Super 12 champions to fail to make the semis the following year, didn’t get what they needed.

Still, the Canes’ loss was disappointing. Their possession and territory were fine: however, there were too many silly mistakes, poor option taking and failure to convert chances. The lineout needs work. The simple but devastatingly effective measure of giving the ball to captain Jerry “JC” Collins to bust up the middle wasn’t sufficiently exploited.

JC is an awesome player and a quality captain, but the Canes – particularly in the backline – lacked Tana Umaga’s supreme presence, leadership, imagination and flair. Centres Ma’a Nonu and Tane Tuipulotu had good games but they’re not Tana.

Tuipulotu provided one of the match’s highlights with an intercept try that saw him out sprint Rupeni “Caucau” Caucaunibuca in a 40+ metre dash. The Fijian speedster/ wünderkind also scored a try. He provided another highlight with a deft, innovative kick across field to fellow winger Doug Howlett, igniting an enjoyable passage of play. However, he wasn’t firing on all cylinders and was curiously underused. (He left the field towards the end of game and is now ruled out of the rest of the season with injury; luckily for the Blues they’ve got the return of the injured Joe Rokocoko).

As one expects, the Aucklanders did a little of their usual professional fouling trick. Paddy O’Brien – the stalwart referee in his 200th test – rightly sin-binned Blues halfback Steve Devine for such behaviour. Lock Bradley Mika (awarded by the touch judge) and captain Xavier Rush also scored for the Blues. Replacement Canes wing Roy Kinikinilau made up for a couple of mistakes with a try that potently tied things up 26 all in the final minutes.

Two points keep the Canes alive, there is still hope. Keep any eye in this magazine for reports on their must-win home games against the Reds (frustratingly, this game will be played after Salient goes to press but before this issue arrives at uni) and the Crusaders.

The Mexican wave got the 32,500 strong crowd going a bit in the 26th minute, but not like it has and should. Unlike last time, halftime entertainment was provided by a group of slappers, aka cheerleaders. The organisers of the Waikato Chiefs deserve mad props for getting the Deceptikonz to perform at the Chief’s last game. What a good idea. Imagine “Stop, Drop and Roll” booming around the Cake Tin. Or, even better, when the Canes play the Crusaders: the great Mareko (representing Welly) nailing the Crusader himself, Scribe, in a MC battle. Or Savage delivering that now classic line: “So cut the bullshit, before I rock your face with a pool stick.” Actually, we should save that one for when the All Blacks next pummel the Springboks.

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