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'Bullied by kids': Blues' All Black front row comes up short against youngsters

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

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The Blues entered the Super Rugby Pacific final with the best performing scrum in the competition, one that conceded the fewest number of penalties and the highest percentage for pushing the opposition backward.

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With four All Black props, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe, the Blues had the luxury of bringing in two internationals from the bench.

However, that advantage up front did not materialise against the Crusaders in the final as George Bower, Codie Taylor, and Oliver Jager held their own for the most part.

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After a 30 per cent dominant scrum rate, the Blues were not able to find any dominant shoves in the final, and when the Crusaders young props Tamiati Williams and Fletcher Newell entered the game, they had the better of their All Black counterparts.

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The Blues set-piece weapon that won 38 penalties during the season also could not find any success as the Crusaders were able to win the penalty count at scrum time 1-0.

The Blues line out also capitulated as they could not find their targets. The Crusaders completed 90% of their throws while the home side had just a 47% completion with nine from 19.

Blues head coach Leon Macdonald lamented his side’s performance at set-piece time which failed to deliver a platform.

“10 missed lineouts is hard to live off. It’s as simple as that really,” he said.

“Scrum penalties et cetera [as well], we weren’t able to get any momentum into the game, which was hugely disappointing given obviously the fact is it’s a final and it happened in a final.

“That aside, as a group we can still be really proud of what was a bloody good season for the Blues.

“15 and 2, I think, that record was – which is good. And it shows that we’ve made some good progress but tonight it shows that there’s still some work to be done.”

Blues captain Beauden Barrett was equally disappointed as the Blues were shut out in a first half for the first time since 2015.

“Where do I start? I guess, just not being able to get our game going as early as we would have liked and being forced to not have any control in the game,” he said.

“That was quite frustrating. There was no one clear moment, it was just a number of things and the combination of certainly set-piece pressure.”

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