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Blues won't retreat into their shells against the Crusaders says Barrett

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Blues 20-19 victory over the Brumbies sealed a date with Scott Robertson’s Crusaders side in next week’s final at Eden Park where the two clubs will meet again after a thrilling encounter in Round 9.

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The Crusaders will be searching for a sixth title in six years after three straight Super Rugby titles followed by two domestic ones in 2020 and 2021, however this will be just the second time under Robertson they contest a final away from home.

Their first championship under Robertson was perhaps their most unlikely, upsetting the Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg 25-17 for a famous away win. They will have to repeat that feat again as they will likely be priced as slight underdogs in a final for the first time since then.

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Blues captain Beauden Barrett explained that ‘this is the final everyone wanted and we wanted’ following the semi-final win, where the 30-year-old first five will attempt to claim his second Super Rugby title after a magnificent season with the Blues.

“There’ll be plenty of that [emotion] in the media – especially social media,” Barrett said of the anticipation for the final. 

“How well we stay focussed and prepare is so critical this week, and not letting any of that external noise divert our attention. We’ve got to enjoy the week. It’s our last one, it’s guaranteed.

“How tight we stay together and stick to what we’ve been doing and trust that, I think that’s what this week will be all about.”

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The Blues were slow out of the gate against the Highlanders in the first half last week and this week it was the second half as they struggled to register a single point.

Those jitters are hopefully behind them says Barrett, who is confident the side won’t retreat into their shell like they have in periods across the first two playoff games.

“Potentially, but we’ve had a bit of a taste of finals footy in the last two weeks. You could treat them as dress rehearsals. I think already there’s a lot more excitement because it is
the final week,” he said.

“Although we’ve been treating each game like a final, it’s THE final. So there’s no time to go into our shells, it’s time to express ourselves and just embrace the challenge and enjoy it.”

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After giving up a try in the first three minutes against the Brumbies, the Blues hit their stride during a period of attack in the first half where fullback Stephen Perofeta sliced through the Brumbies on a kick return. After some powerful running up the middle, No 8 Hoskins Sotutu crashed over to give the Blues the lead for the first time.

Barrett said that was the Blues playing their most potent game, utilising their power runners at a high tempo to bulldoze through teams.

“That’s us playing at our best,” he said of the passage of play leading to their first try.

“It was not an ideal way to start the game, letting in a set-piece try like that, but the way we bounced back, we showed some great composure and found our groove a lot quicker than we did probably last week anyway.

“That’s us at our best, carrying the ball well and playing on top of teams – keeping it pretty simple.”

The Blues pair of playmakers combined late in the first half after a similar destructive passage of phase play. When the chance to go wide came, a damaging run by Barrett beat a handful of Brumbies defenders. He found an offload for Perofeta to keep the play alive before the Blues’ fullback quickly connected with Mark Telea to score in the corner.

The combination between Perofeta and Barrett has been firing over the back half of the season and will be critical to a Blues’ victory next week against the Crusaders.

“Absolutely,” Barrett said when asking if he was clicking with Perofeta, “I feel really comfortable with our connection and how calm he is as a player but also at critical times, he’s a great communicator and we understand how we both need it in those moments.

“He’s playing with confidence at the moment and he’s really backing himself and we’ve seen that for a while now and I’m really happy for him.

“We know what this team needs from the both of us and there will be a fair amount of responsibility on our shoulders to play well tactically next week – as there is any week.”

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