On Saturday the Warriors beat the Rabbitohs in a game of rugby league. On Sunday the Blues beat the Lions at rugby union. Today, Andrew Mulligan reports on a miracle.
Holy shit the Blues and Warriors won on the same weekend for the first time since…April 30th 2017. Not that long ago but given confidence has dropped to a level not seen since ‘central Auckland retailers looking out their windows at a bike lane being built’ then this is an annual event worth celebrating. More impressively it’s the first time in almost six years they both won overseas on the same weekend.
Please assemble at Aotea Square midday Monday for the Civic reception where Tana Umaga will Skype into us and Stephen Kearney will address the fans.
Let’s start with the Warriors who had agreed to go to Perth, Western Australia nine times and come away with nine losses before they faced the Rabbitohs this year. That’s an exercise in futility and travel silliness a team shouldn’t have to endure when they travel the most out of any NRL team.
Thankfully it was the first game of the season and they looked fresh, even in their potentially unflattering white away strip, revealing two things –
1. Alex Corvo, renowned trainer of the Brisbane Broncos has been thrashing them and
2. They’re aiming to do the 6 week 20 something summer trifecta of ‘RnV, a wedding and heading to the Hamilton Sevens as Tarzan’ next summer.
The Rabbits might not be much chop in 2018 but several significant things happened for the Penrose team:
- There was the sensational covering tackle from Roger Tuivasa Scheck who Cirque de Solieled (it’s more a verb than an adjective) Alex Johnston into touch when most normal NRL backs would score. A good old fashioned defensive tone setter for the Warriors
- They managed to hold a halftime lead where last year they conceded more tries in the second half than the first and lost seven games when leading or tied at halftime.
- Blake Green might be an older James Maloney for Shaun Johnson. The two-part Warriors pre-season documentary on Sky Sport showed a lot of Green talking, which continued in Perth. Johnson looked his best, playing havoc with the Souths forwards and forcing them to retreat and handle his change of direction inside their own half.
- It’s the Warriors’ first win since June. They will tell you it’s a new team, a new season and that was last year but trying telling that to your mate with 14 Warriors jerseys who you ritualistically taunt via text, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber and Vevo.
Yeah it’s only one win and they might not get another one for a while but they looked sharp and had a wonderful mix of youth and experience in the forwards. Plus, they didn’t have Simon Mannering and his usual 40 to 50 tackles.
If you watched the first half of the Hurricane vs. Crusaders game and the second half of the Blues vs. Lions match then you witnessed Super Rugby finally living up to its name. #DontMissAThing.
The rugby wasn’t great from the Blues or Lions in the second half with the Lions being the best team outside of New Zealand and making consecutive finals and the Blues the worst performing team in New Zealand, they were probably evenly matched. But if you’re a Blues fan, the ingrained desperation you’ve come to live with would’ve made the win heartening.
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The Lions looked like the 2017 Warriors – trying to protect a lead by throwing offloads and making handling errors when they should’ve been playing the territory game and pushing the Blues back into their own 22. Any savvy player of the underappreciated ‘Rugby 08’ on PlayStation 3 already knows all this.
Thank goodness for the Ioanes and Stephen Perofeta and the Blues’ attack of the Lions’ right side. Sonny Bill Williams, Reiko Ioane and Melani Nanai gave them trouble and they kept going back to that well. Right wing Matt Duffie almost died of exposure out there.
This was a very different performance from what the Blues offered when they had a chance to beat the depleted Chiefs at Eden Park in round 3. A wonky lineout throw denied them a chance to beat a New Zealand team for the first time in two seasons. But getting on a plane and leaving New Zealand behind can sometimes be the best thing for a team, even being delayed getting to Africa by a flight can add to the bonding experience and that probably helped the Blues show that they’re not the whipping boy of your mates bantz every time you unlock your phone on a weekend.
History has been made. Bring on another overseas weekend for The Blues and the mighty Vodafone Warriors. Preferably before 2024 because Auckland fans don’t want to wait another six years.
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