An All Blacks-inspired Blues team shattered the Western Force’s illusion of Super 14 rugby with a 43-5 pounding in Auckland.
The Blues scored seven tries to one and led 29-nil at halftime. Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell had worked with many of the Blues players. On Thursday, he had to watch them terrorise his young Force outfit.
In a night of irony, you had an Aussie coach in charge of the Blues and a Kiwi in charge of the Force.
Marc Hinton, writing on XtraMsn.co.nz, described the Force as being woefully short of what will be required in little more than a week’s time when the competition starts.
Hinton added that Mitchell, a former Chiefs Super 12 coach, must now be brutally aware of the extent of the challenge in front of him with Australia’s first expansion franchise.
Perhaps the emotional turmoil he was feeling explained why he left the New Zealand media waiting well over an hour for him to appear at the pre-appointed press conference. As most wandered out muttering something about “nothing changing” he could well have been mulling just what he’s got himself into.
Blues coach David Nucifora, whose side had lost to the Reds and Waratahs in pre-season hit outs, confessed afterwards to being “reasonably comfortable” heading into next Friday’s Super 14 opener against the Hurricanes on Eden Park.
“Right throughout the pre-season we’ve pushed the guys really hard. We had an extremely hard week training in Australia and we trained hard as soon as we came back and haven’t taken that foot off the pedal,” said Nucifora. “It would have been easy for the guys to lie down tonight and feel fatigued. We did feel fatigued, but we had a bit of a challenge amongst ourselves to try to play with some intensity out there tonight whilst they were fairly tired – as they did.”
As for the Force? Well Nucifora’s own opinion was that it was “hard to gauge” just where they’re at, though reading between the lines of his response suggested he wasn’t exactly expecting them to set the world on fire.
“Unless you know how each team is preparing for the season it’s very difficult to make assumptions,” said Nucifora. “They, I believe, have been working quite hard in Melbourne and have flown in yesterday. I’m sure they weren’t too satisfied with their effort tonight and they’ve got a challenge next week.”
Blues 43: Isa Nacewa, John Senio, Brent Ward, Joe Rokocoko, Justin Collins, Villie Waqaseduadua, Rua Tipoki tries; Ward 4 con.
Western Force 5: Luke Doherty try. Ht: 29-0.