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'Exceptional athlete': MacDonald praises Blues 'seriously quick' 22-year-old blindside flanker

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

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The Blues new blindside flanker Taine Plumtree starred in the side’s comeback win over the Highlanders, scoring two tries in a breakout performance playing in an unconventional position.

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After a lacklustre first half that saw the Highlanders take a 13-3 lead, Plumtree sparked the Blues into life with two tries in the first 10 minutes of the second half down the right flank.

In the first he combined with Dalton Papalii down the right hand side before receiving a return pass on the inside before the Blues captain was bundled into touch. The second try came from a wayward Highlanders clearing kick that gave the Blues a counter-attacking opportunity.

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Spreading the ball to the right hand side again, right wing Mark Telea sliced through before finding Plumtree in the clear. The blindside reached back to grab the pass with one hand before a celebratory wave of the finger as he scored in the corner.

The second Plumtree try gave the Blues the lead which they never relinquished, controlling proceedings to build a 32-20 win. Blues head coach Leon MacDonald called Plumtree’s try-scoring feats ‘great’ and praised the athleticism shown by their new number 6.

“Yeah, great eh? He’s an exceptional athlete, seriously quick and he’s a big tall man,” MacDonald said.

“I think he actually injured himself pretty early on in the game but he was so determined to stay out there that he gutsed it out so showed a bit of ticker as well, so really stoked for
him.”

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The son of All Black assistant coach John Plumtree, the Blues new recruit joined the club in 2022 from under the noses of the Hurricanes in Wellington where he plays provincial rugby with the Lions.

The Blues aggressive recruitment strategy which has seen Plumtree move north along with lock Sam Darry and loose forward Anton Segner out of the Crusaders region has paid dividends, giving the club unprecedented depth in the forwards.

Despite losing All Black Akira Ioane to injury, the Blues boast a number of options that are able to step up and perform which give them one advantage as the Kiwi teams deal with Covid outbreaks.

“Yeah it’s ideal,” Macdonald said of the Blues depth across the backrow.

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“We’ve lost Aki [Ioane] and Tom [Robinson’s] sitting there and he’ll be waiting to come back and Taine’s putting put pressure on, real pressure.

“So that’s what we like. I think the biggest thing is this is gonna be a squad competition. There’s no doubt about it. Today we pulled in five players or whatever it was and it’s gonna happen again and sometimes we might be 15 players down in a week.

“Having depth is important and I think a few guys showed they were up to it today.”

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