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Blues on win: 'You breathe a sigh of relief because you got away with it'

By Ned Lester
Cole Forbes of the Blues scores a try. Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images

The Hurricanes’ supremacy atop the Super Rugby Pacific table is under threat, with the Blues sitting just a single bonus point behind the Wellingtonians with the same winning record.

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Both Kiwi heavyweights came up against Australian counterparts across the ditch in round 10, being tested right until the final whistle in both contests that ended with both New Zealand and Australia walking away with wins to their name.

For the Blues, the Reds may have come at them with an expected formula, but it didn’t make the game any easier.

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“They were going to do what we expected them to do, and we didn’t clean up our ruck and get our cleans right,” Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu said after the match.

The star of the show for the Queensland team was undeniably rookie winger Matt Ryan, who scored the first Reds hat-trick against the Blues since 2011.

The All Black lock however admitted he had never heard of the former U20 Wallabies flyer.

For the Blues, the gameplan was simple, and Tuipulotu was sure to keep his team grounded after the young gun completed his hat-trick to extend the Reds’ lead to 11 with just 15 minutes remaining.

“It was just trying to focus on the next job and get our defence tight, especially off a kick-off. There were plenty of mistakes in that area, so to get through that last 10 [minutes] we couldn’t stop playing. We kept the pressure on, and even though we were making mistakes, we were able to bounce back and there were some good skills on the edge by debutant James Thompson.

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“There was some good work all around to finish the game off.”

Replacement flanker Thompson showed some deft touches when playing in the wide channels, most notably showing great poise to draw and pass in the 81st minute to set Caleb Clarke away down the left wing, which resulted in the game-winning try to Sam Nock on the same play.

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Tuipulotu’s coach, Vern Cotter, was equally impressed with the late-game execution.

“Our bench was good coming on and added an impact, so everybody contributed, and it’s one of those wins that you breathe a sigh of relief because you got away with it.

“But you need games like that to test yourselves. And that was a great Test, a great game.”

Cotter acknowledged his team’s mistakes, including some critical defensive errors, while also noting it took a while for his team to find their feet in the contest. He credited the Reds for the pressure they applied, while being pleased with his side’s response and composure to bring the win home.

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Cotter also reacted to Reds coach Les Kiss’ take that the fixture between the two teams should be an annual event for ANZAC Day weekend.

“It ties the history of the two sides together and the people that have been involved in those difficult times in the First and Second World Wars. It’s something that needs to be realised. And, if it’s recognised by a game of footy every year, why not?”

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