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'That was embarrassing': How Vern Cotter set the tone for Blues

By Ned Lester
Blues coach Vern Cotter. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Blues had plenty of praise for new head coach Vern Cotter following their 50-3 demolition of the Western Force at Eden Park on Friday night.

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The coach was credited for instilling an “edge” in the environment by providing some blunt commentary on the team’s recent finals results.

The Blues were knocked out in the semi-finals a season ago in a thorough dismantling by eventual champions the Crusaders, with a final score of 52-15 punctuating the team’s recent difficulty in getting over the red and black hump in the knockout stages.

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The season prior, the Blues reached the final only to be dismissed by the dynastic Canterbury outfit, another loss that haunts many of the current Blues squad members.

The coach, aptly nicknamed Stern Vern, was quick to pull on those strings when named successor to Leon MacDonald ahead of the current season.

Speaking to media following the win over the Force, first five-eighth Harry Plummer shared how Cotter has made his mark on the team.

“I think it’s different in the fact that Vern came in straight away, from day one, set the tone, said we don’t want to be losing by 40 points to the Crusaders in the semi-final again because that was embarrassing,” he told Sky Sport’s postgame panel.

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“It’s kept a bit of an edge and he’s kept that edge every week. This week especially being a short week; new boys getting chances. I think the edge is what’s driving the boys to build a squad around the injuries, around the youth, around the experience and trying to get to that end goal of the final.”

Echoing Plummer’s sentiments following the win was loose forward Akira Ioane, who was awarded Man of the Match in the contest.

The All Black was complimentary of how the coach had come in and understood his personnel and how to play to their strengths.

“We’ve just got a great bunch of boys, VC (Cotter) came in here, hasn’t really changed much but has just given us real direction around what we need to do to be a good team,” Ioane said. “We do it in drips and drabs but I feel like we’re slowly getting on a role and it’s looking good for the back end of the season. But, nothing’s given.”

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The coach himself then joined the panel to share his mildly enthusiastic analysis of the win.

“It was okay. I think we started the game properly around set piece and got access through that and then the game opened up and they saw opportunities and took them. So, it’s a reasonable day.

“I think we’re starting to push passes to the outside and I think when we see opportunities we can change a game. We didn’t go down the short side enough in the first half, went down straight away in the second half and got access and scored points off that.

“That makes them start guessing around what we’re doing which creates other opportunities. It’s all bout space and creating it and you’ve got to have your access points and I think the guys are starting to get better at those.

“We’re happy but it’s only halfway through the season.”

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