Blues coach David Nucifora did the dirty on his former Brumbies boys once again, but it was the regional effort of the Blues that would have given Nucifora the most satisfaction in Saturday’s 26-15 Vodacom Super 14 win against the Brumbies.
The Blues, a combination of Auckland and North Harbour, have stuttered in this season’s campaign. It has been hinted that there is a lack of unity because of the fierce provincial rivalry between Auckland and Harbour. However, at Eden Park (home to Auckland), the brilliance of Auckland fullback Isa Nacewa and Harbour centre Anthony Tuitavake combined to punish the Brumbies in the first 35 minutes and condemn the Aussies to their first defeat of the 2006 competition.
The Brumbies have only won twice in their last seven visits to Eden Park and with the added obstacle of having Nucifora in charge of the Blues it was always going to take a special effort from the visitors to win. On the day they couldn’t produce the kind of form needed to beat a desperate Blues side, who had to win to keep alive any championship aspirations.
Nucifora, for those who don’t know, was sacked as Brumbies coach because the players did not want him. He was sacked the season the Brumbies won the Super 12.
Last year, as technical advisor to the Blues, Nucifora put together a plan to beat the Brumbies. And this year he has done the same. The plan was simple: The Blues had to play with intensity for 80 minutes and be very physical in the contact and at the breakdown.
The Brumbies don’t like a flat defence or having a tackler in their face all day. They are a team that thrives on a waiting defence that gives them space.
The Blues, as was the case a year ago, were ferocious at the breakdown and produced their most impressive 40 minutes of the season to lead 18-0 at halftime. The forwards attacked the breakdown with vigour, while Tuitavake’s explosiveness and side-step were maximised.
Gradually the Brumbies worked their way back into the match, but a 21 point deficit early in the second half was too much to overhaul. And when Nasewa rounded off a fantastic move to stretch the lead to 26-7 the Brumbies were a beaten side.
Thereafter Stirling Mortlock’s men played for the bonus point and they got close in the final few minutes.
“We played positive football in the opening 25 minutes, but we had no reward for it,” said Mortlock. “They came out firing, as we knew they would and they capitalised from our mistakes.”
The Blues, with just the one win from four matches, put everything into that first half an hour and they did enough damage to unsettle the fluidity of the Brumbies and lay the foundation for a win that could prove the turning point in their season.
Blues: Tries: Troy Flavell, Anthony Tuitavake and Isa Nacewa.
Pens: Nacewa (3)
Brumbies: Tries: Clyde Rathbone and Joel Wilson
Conversion: Mark Gerrard
Penalties: Stirling Mortlock
More to follow …