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'A beautiful thing': Leon MacDonald praises Blues' well-oiled playmakers

By Tom Vinicombe
Stephen Perofeta. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Blues have triumphed 53-26 over the Reds in Auckland thanks in part to the cool heads of three key playmakers in the side.

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Halfback Finlay Christie, first five-eighth Beauden Barrett and fullback Stephen Perfoeta were all in impeccable form at Eden Park on Saturday night.

Christie continued his rich run of form for the season and was quick to every breakdown, serving fast ball up on a platter to the backline. Barrett and Perofeta, meanwhile, regularly interchanged at first receiver and combined for two tries and five try assists between them to set their side up for an important victory.

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While Christie and Perofeta have been two of the best performers for the Super Rugby leaders throughout 2022, Barrett had somewhat of a slow start to the campaign due to a concussion suffered in the late stages of last season but is now in tip-top shape ahead of the finals which are due to kick off in two weeks’ time.

Although Perofeta has been strong when asked to fill in at No 10, Barrett adds an extra dimension to the Blues’ attack thanks to his outrageous acceleration and top-end pace.

 

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But just how important is Barrett to the Blues’ fortunes?

“Massive, massive,” coach Leon MacDonald said after the match. “And Stevie. Those two guys and Fin Christie are really steering the ship around the tactical play.

“I thought we’re getting the ball to the edges, we’re going through the middle, we’ve got a really nice balance and I thought some of our kicks in behind and seeing the space tonight was really good tonight. Watching Beauden Barrett chasing through a grubber’s a beautiful thing.

Barrett himself was full of praise for his teammates following the victory and suggested that he and Perofeta work so well together on the field because of their similar approaches to the game.

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“I really enjoy playing with Stevie and we connect well off the field when we talk,” he said. “We see the game very similarly.

“I like his composure and the way he reads the game and obviously his skills. We understand our importance in leading the boys around the park and we have good alignment when it comes to that.

“I’ve seen huge growth with Stevie in the way he can lead a team, drive a team around. He’s certainly grown with his voice and confidence. It’s about giving him all the opportunities we can because he’s playing so well.”

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There have been rumblings that Perofeta could be playing his way into an All Blacks jersey thanks to his proven ability to play in both the No 10 and No 15 jerseys and if the 25-year-old can continue to perform to the standards he did on Saturday night, the national selectors will certainly need to seriously consider the young playmaker.

Christie, meanwhile, earned a first call-up to the All Blacks last year and has gone from strength to strength in 2022

“He’s a great lad, he’s a real character in this team,” Barrett said of his halfback. “We’re all aware of what he can do with the ball and his tenacity off the ball … The speed that he can play with if we can deliver that quick clean breakdown for him, he can be dangerous.”

The Blues will take on the Brumbies in Canberra next week and the Waratahs also away from home before returning to Eden Park for the quarter-finals. One more win from their last two matches would all but guarantee the Blues home advantage for the extent of their run in the coming sudden death matches.

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