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Vern Cotter: Blues heading into playoffs with feet firmly on the ground

By Ned Lester
Akira Ioane of the Blues. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The Blues may have fallen short of their goal of a bonus point win over the Chiefs to secure the top seed heading into the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs, but they won’t let that undermine what was a strong win.

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The Aucklanders enjoyed fast starts to both the first and second halves, scoring all five of their tries in the first and third quarters of the contest. The Chiefs built their way into each of the periods and returned fire with three tries in the second and fourth quarters.

It was the final two efforts that made headlines though as Quinn Tupaea crossed with 13 minutes remaining, threatening the Blues’ bonus point lead, before Josh Ioane provided the final punch in the final minute.

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The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

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How would Super Rugby teams fare in the Champions Cup? | Aotearoa Rugby Pod

The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

The race for the top seed was a hard-fought battle and as well as deciding the regular season’s best, it also provides home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Blues, having finished second, will now enjoy home-field advantage so long as they don’t play the Hurricanes in the final. That’s a result coach Vern Cotter is proud of.

“If you had given me that score at the start of the season, I would have taken it over the Chiefs,” Cotter said after the win.

“If you want to win the title, you have to beat everybody, so it [finishing second] doesn’t matter.

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“There’ll be parts of that game we’ll review, and we’ll try and become better at it.”

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Those final two tries specifically provide plenty of tape to review, and Cotter says it’ll humble his squad.

“We let them back in because we weren’t quite as effective or efficient in what we were doing.

“The danger of finishing first is that suddenly your feet lift off the ground. We know that we’ve got a lot of work to do. It wasn’t a total performance, but it was a good one.”

“We’ll make sure we put some good things in on Monday and build the week. We go into a knockout situation and we want another Monday to keep moving forward.”

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The coach said it’s also important to celebrate the win and embrace the positives.

“We will enjoy the fact that we qualified, enjoy the fact that we won the game at home in front of our crowd and then we shift into knockout rugby.”

The quarter-final contest that awaits is a hungry Fijian Drua outfit with no shortage of firepower.

Now is the time to bring everything learned through the season and put in three complete performances, and Cotter says he’s seen plenty from his leadership group that suggests they can bring it home.

“Paddy (Tuipulotu) and the boys are stepping up and taking everything on board.

“They’re ambitious, want to do well, and want to go as far as we can in the competition.

“We’ve had a good qualifying phase and now we need to do what we can do, learn from today and other games and become better when it matters.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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d 20 days ago

Let’s go boys

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Mzilikazi 1 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 4 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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F
Flankly 5 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

The comments were reported weirdly. De Allende did say it would be war, but he said it amidst comments like “Ireland play such good footy”, and “they are so good at the breakdown”. He said that the Boks lost heavily to Ireland a few years back and that they felt the Irish press was dismissive of the Boks. I don’t recall that, but I suppose it is true, and that SA players would want to turn around that sentiment. The RWC loss to Ireland would naturally pour fuel on the fire. In short, it is a natural thing for passionate players like him to feel very strongly about the goal of registering a convincing series win against Ireland. There is really nothing to see here. As an aside, the SA team shouldn’t be too self-righteous about this kind of a situation. Recall that in 2004, after SA won the Ireland series in SA, Jake White noted that no more than two Irish players were good enough for selection in his Bok side. "Considering the facts, I think only two of their players would be included in the Bok team - O'Driscoll (centre) and maybe one of the locks. How could we have lost against the Irish?" O’Driscoll disagreed and said that it was close, and Ireland were just tired. My Irish friends were pretty incensed by the comments, quite rightly. And I am sure it was part of the energy that drove them to some famous wins against the Boks. The Etzebeth thing was a little different. I think he was just not hearing what was being said. It is not that unusual for someone to say “We will see you in the final”. Of course it is a statement of confidence, which every team should have, but it is also a compliment. I think there was a cultural fly-by, in which a “see you soon” comment was taken to mean “we will beat you again”. But it was a good story, and a convenient clickbaity headline. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to rile up anything. But if you interview a Bok player and prod them about their passion wrt the Ireland tour, you are likely to hear some pretty heartfelt words. And so you should.

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