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'It was't all doom and gloom for us': Blues happy with result after Drua surprise

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

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Blues first five Beauden Barrett likened the Fijian Drua to the Fijian national side after his side’s 35-18 win in Melbourne.

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Barrett copped a visible black eye when the All Blacks played Fiji in Dunedin last year and expected his side to come under heat as the Drua brought a new level of physicality.

The 30-year-old said that the Blues almost underestimated how much the Drua would be able to disrupt their flow.

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Abbie Ward on beating the Black Ferns
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Abbie Ward on beating the Black Ferns

“It reminded me of the international games against Fiji last year. They’re typically a tough side to play, a Fijian side,” Barrett said.

“They’re physical, and we expected that. Perhaps we underestimated how much they can fluster you because of the lack of momentum that we got and we weren’t allowed to play our game at times.

“So that’s where we probably saw the frustration shown and ill-discipline, allowing them to get free rides.”

The Fijian Drua found success early by using the grubber kicks from anywhere on the field to get in behind the Blues defence. The strategy paid off when hooker Mesulame Dolokoto scored their first try backing up on the inside after a recovery of one of those kicks.

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Barrett described them as ‘freakish’ as the Drua showed a continued ability to recover many of their well placed grubbers.

“We certainly expected that part of it, as well as those little freakish grubber kicks in behind the defensive line from loose forwards,” he said.

“We just had to be ‘on’ all the time and at times they caught us out but that’s just how they play. It was always going to be a test for us mentally and as a system collectively.”

The Blues found it hard to crack the Drua defence relying on two intercept tries to AJ Lam and Rieko Ioane to keep a large buffer between the two sides. Lam scored his second try from a set piece play close to the line to effectively seal the result in the 64th minute.

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Blues head coach Leon MacDonald didn’t want to make excuses for their inability to put the game away comprehensively, as penalties gave the Drua plenty of attacking opportunities.

“I don’t want to make excuses for the inaccuracies. Especially our discipline, it’s something we try to be very disciplined but we gave away too many soft penalties. We
talked all week around what they want – they want to have penalties, they want to be able to play,” he said.

“If we fall asleep on defence, they’re gonna take quick taps et cetera and we really wanted to deliver there and I think by and large we did. I thought were created a
lot of pressure with our defence and we looked good but then we’d give a penalty away.

“That was probably the most frustrating thing. I thought our intensity on defence got better as the game went on in terms of coming off the line and I thought in the first half
we had some good line speed and created some pressure there and we were able to finish off some good tries.

“It was’t all doom and gloom for us – five points in this competition are like gold and we’ll regroup again. We’re playing in Perth and another tough battle.”

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