Before this Blues v Highlanders fixture, the Blues had won just one match against Kiwi opposition in the current World Cup cycle. To turn the tide they would need to use some very smart tactics and force the Highlanders to play their game. In this article, we will answer the burning question of just how the Blues pulled this off.

As explained in our Highlanders article, this game was all about exit plays.

How the Blues Manufactured Their Best Case Scenario | Blues v Highlanders

The Blues have a very specific goal in mind when they kick off, which we will return to soon. The first step is to kick off deep. Below is a good example of that.

The Blues put the ball deep into Highlanders territory.
The Blues put the ball deep into Highlanders territory.

This deep kick gives the Highlanders time and space to kick for touch, as evident in how far away the nearest defender is. They are daring the opposition to kick for touch.

The Highlanders fall into the trap and kick it straight out.

The Highlanders oblige
The Highlanders oblige

This sets up what the Blues were hoping for all along; a lineout in the Highlanders half.

The Blues get exactly what they want
The Blues get exactly what they want

Why do they want this? Because the Blues are becoming a deadly set-piece team. They would score two tries in this game that stemmed from lineouts in this area.

Time and time again the Blues would encourage the Highlanders to kick the ball out, before dealing swift punishment. This tactic becomes more evident below.

How the Blues are Becoming a Strike-Move Team | Blues v Highlanders

As the match entered the second half the Blues switched up their kick off. They would kick shallow in a vintage Dan Carter-esque manner and try to regain possession. If this didn’t work out, they would still work to get a lineout in Highlanders territory.

Below they try a shallow kick off.

The Blues kick shallow, but the Highlanders get the ball
The Blues kick shallow, but the Highlanders get the ball

The Highlanders don’t like playing in their own half, so they kick. the Blues now get the ball back in their own half, which isn’t ideal. They need to find a way to get the lineout they want. After a few careful phases, Plummer kicks deep to Ben Smith (yellow circle).

The Blues dare Ben Smith to kick the ball out
The Blues dare Ben Smith to kick the ball out

Smith has no real choice but to kick it out.

Smith goes for touch, unintentionally giving the Blues the platform they wanted
Smith goes for touch, unintentionally giving the Blues the platform they wanted

Once again the Blues have their desired outcome, and you’re about to see why. This is an area of the game they can dominate.

Earlier in the game, they managed to score from first-phase off a lineout. This one would take slightly longer, but you can see how their first try unfolded below.

Where the Highlanders Couldn’t Beat the Blues | Highlanders Tactics

They start with a couple of crash balls, which keeps the Highlanders defence thin on the far side.

The Blues crash a couple of times
The Blues crash a couple of times

The Blues now bring their speedsters into the fold. Faiane breaks, and Nanai scores. This was all built from the earlier lineout that was so expertly set up.

Nanai scores a great try
Nanai scores a great try

These lineout moves were great, but the final nail in the Highlanders coffin was the Blues incredible turnaround in game management.

The Blues Game Management Success | Blues v Highlanders

In the final 10 minutes, the Blues were behind and looked to be extending their winless record against Kiwi sides. In the 72nd minute, finally, the pin dropped.

The Blues would attack for 18 straight phases, flat out refusing to lose again. The reward would soon come with a try from Tuipulotu.

Tuipulotu scores a good pressure try
Tuipulotu scores a good pressure try

Now, all the Blues had to do was hold onto the ball and grind down the clock. Their no.9 Ruru plays it smart by leaving the ball in this scrum, before swinging a pass wide to Ma’a Nonu who makes a great run. The Blues are now making good pressure decisions, and Nonu is finally warming up in Super Rugby.

Nonu makes a good run
Nonu makes a good run

The Blues have broken the drought against Kiwi sides, but do you any hope their season can be salvaged? Are they improving at all under coach Leon MacDonald? Let us know your thoughts down below.

The 1014 Rugby

Author: The 1014 Rugby

The 1014 is servicing the needs of a passionate and respectful global rugby community by producing world-class content based on three important values – Passion, Integrity and Respect.
All content is through the pure eyes of two children starting out on their journey in life. The 10 and 14 represent the two characters on this journey and everything produced is through their outlook on life.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here