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Captain Patrick Tuipulotu shines with ‘inspirational’ Grand Final performance

By Finn Morton
Captain Patrick Tuipulotu of the Blues holds the Super Rugby Pacific trophy as he celebrates with his team the changing rooms after winning the Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final match between Blues and Chiefs at Eden Park, on June 22, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

With just over 20 minutes left to play in the Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final, Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu was replaced. Thousands of fans at Eden Park clapped the “inspirational” skipper off the field in a moment the All Black won’t soon forget.

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The return of captain Tuipulotu from injury was the early Christmas present every Blues fan wanted before the decider but it wasn’t one they expected. It was understood that Tuipulotu would miss the semi and final with a knee injury.

Tuipulotu had picked up the cruel injury blow in the quarter-final win over the Fijian Drua and missed last week’s semi-final win over the ACT Brumbies. But as the Blues social media team revealed with a post captioned ‘swipe for a surprise”, the lock was back for the big one.

With the Blues looking to return to the top of Super Rugby in front of their home supports, it was their skipper who led by example during a legendary appearance. It was special for ‘Patty T’ to feature at all considering the injury, but the performance was a true captain’s knock.

Tuipulotu ran the ball 14 times for more than 60 metres, made one line break, beat five defenders, was a general at the lineout and did some solid work around the breakdown. Then, midway through the second half, the crowd showed their appreciation.

With the Blues’ leader holding the trophy in the post-match press conference, Vern Cotter was asked about the man sitting beside him. The coach couldn’t have spoken more highly of the second-rower who certainly led by example.

“He was inspirational for his teammates. His carries and his defence, his lineout and just presence,” coach Vern Cotter told reporters.

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“It was going to be a battle of tight fives and forwards so he was really instrumental in getting us going forward and keeping us going forward and dragging people with him and that’s what you want from a leader.

“[Dalton Papali’i], Dalts was in there and Rieko [Ioane] finished. This is part of the team that’s been so pleasing. It’s been everybody pitching in, doing what they can to achieve the objective we started with at the beginning of the season.

Match Summary

2
Penalty Goals
1
5
Tries
1
5
Conversions
1
0
Drop Goals
0
153
Carries
78
5
Line Breaks
4
10
Turnovers Lost
13
5
Turnovers Won
2

“Great stuff, great leadership, the team’s grown, there’s maturity there. There’s been the desire to win all the way through and… there’s been some ups and downs as you’d expect in a season.

“To be able to see those boys now in the changing shed now with the trophy, to see them finish the game… it has been a long time so I can only say this is just an amazing moment to live and they should enjoy it.”

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All Blacks Akira Ioane and Caleb Clarke got the night started with a first-half try each. The accurate goal-kicking boot of Harry Plummer also saw the Blues stretch their lead out to a commanding 20-3 lead at the break.

Clarke was back on the scoresheet not once but twice during the second term, with the hat-trick hero standing out with one of his best performances in recent memory. Utility AJ Lam was the other try scorer on the night for the Blues.

But much as fans remember how Richie McCaw played through an injury at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and Cooper Cronk did the very same during a Grand Final with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL some years ago, the return of Tuipulotu will go down in history.

“Finals are where I wanted to be and pretty gutted I only got through 57 [minutes] or whatever it was,” Tuipulotu explained.

“The boys were able to do a job… the body’s holding up fine.

“It was amazing. Certainly felt the support throughout the whole year… I can’t really explain it. It’s pretty unreal walking off and a full Eden Park is clapping you off. I don’t think many people would get that so I’m pretty honoured.”

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

12 Comments
S
SadersMan 20 days ago

Congrats on a great season & championship win, Blues. Well deserved.

s
swivel 20 days ago

it was pretty stink how Vern kept getting asked the questions in this press conference, i wanted to hear only from the big man

U
Utiku Old Boy 20 days ago

Paddy had a great captain’s knock and has elevated his case and readiness for higher selection. His locking mate Darry did pretty well too as did Holland in his BaBaas run. Vaa’i did not push his case so the AB selections of who joins Barrett and Paddy will be interesting.

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Tom 25 minutes ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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