When Sam Darry signed with the Blues for 2021, he expected he’d spend most weekends watching his teammates from the sidelines. That’s been far from the case, however.
With the likes of Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Goodhue, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and Jacob Pierce on deck, Darry entered the season as the side’s fifth choice lock – at best.
Various injuries to Dary’s more experienced teammates throughout the season, however, have paved the way for the 20-year-old to chalk up four appearances for the Blues, with the Cantabrian set to run out for his fifth start against the Chiefs this evening.
“I came in always wanting to push for a spot, but I knew I was young, and I’ve got a lot of development to do. I probably thought of it more as a development year,” Darry told superrugby.co.nz.
“But, obviously, I’m stoked to be getting the playing time that I am. It is slightly unfortunate circumstances due to the injuries to Paddy [Patrick Tuipulotu] and Josh [Goodhue] being out.”
While Pierce is yet to make an appearance this season, captain Tuipulotu injured his shoulder in the Blue’ loss to the Chiefs and hasn’t featured since that Round 5 clash. Goodhue, meanwhile, has spent some time out due to concussion but will make a return on the bench this weekend.
Even when the Northlander has been available for selection, however, it’s been Darry who’s often started games in the latter half of the Blues’ campaign.
That’s come as a big surprise to the big man – who was hoping to earn some minutes in the Trans-Tasman competition but wasn’t expecting to feature much in the hyper-competitive Aotearoa tournament. A wrist injury to Goodhue earlier in the season, however, paved the way for Darry to earn his first cap against the Highlanders at Eden Park.
“I expected I might get a run in one of the Aussie games, but to get thrown in there, in what was our second game of the season, against the Highlanders was pretty special,” Darry said.
“It is a massive step up from anything I’ve ever done. You definitely notice that physicality when people hit. They don’t really miss at this level, you find that out pretty quickly.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 29, 2021
It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that Darry has been one of the most impressive locking performers of the season, sniffling the fourth-most lineouts per minute of any player in the Aotearoa competition this year and making 90 per cent of his tackles.
It’s been a fast-paced apprenticeship for the youngster who turned down a training contract with the Crusaders to head north and pledge his loyalties to the Blues – but it’s one that should pave the way for a long career with the Auckland-based side.
Instead of having to toil behind the likes of Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Mitch Dunshea, Quinten Strange and Luke Romano down south, Darry is clocking up plenty of minutes and developing his game on the pitch. In fact, at the end of the day, once the Blues have matched the Crusaders in regular season games played this year, Darry will have accumulated more playing time this year than Dunshea, Strange and Romano put together – which can only be good for the young man’s game.
“You can learn as much as you want on the training field, but you’ve got to be putting it into practice on the playing field and learning as you go,” he acknowledged.
Darry will again partner Gerard Cowley-Tuioti in today’s Battle of the Bombays. The pairing have started four matches together this season, with both also earning a starting cap apiece alongside captain Tuipulotu.
Darry will be up against two fellow newbies at the Chiefs with Waikato’s Samipeni Finau and Taranaki’s Josh Lord holding down the fort in the second row for the inexperienced side.
Both Finau and Lord also made their Super Rugby debuts this year but have had few chances to showcase their talents as yet.
This evening’s match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT from Eden Park.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now