The Blues have emerged victorious against the Highlanders, giving them a perfect three wins from three wins in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition. While praise has been fairly lavished on the danger-men on the Blues wings and in the midfield, it’s the playmakers and their expert kicking that may well have been the difference on Saturday night.
Highly anticipated new signing Beauden Barrett hasn’t yet set the world alight with the speed and creativity with ball in hand that he’s known for, but his combination with Otere Black has made the Blues an exceptionally hard nut to crack.
From the first minutes of the match, Barrett and Black peppered the Highlanders back three with swirling high balls. New Highlanders fullback Scott Gregory, in particular, struggled with the dropping bombs and an early mistake by the Northlander gave the Blues the territory and possession they needed to score the first try of the match.
It wasn’t just towering Gary Owens that Barrett and Black relied on, however.
Kick-passes to wingers and loosies looming near the sidelines helped the Blues maintain their momentum while perfectly placed kicks for territory kept the Highlanders pinned back in their 22.
It was a slightly less glamourous, dinky grubber towards the corner flag from Barrett that contributed to the Blues’ second try of the game.
35-metres out from the Highlanders’ try-line, Barrett threaded the ball into the corner and Gregory waited and waited, hoping that the ball would bobble into touch. That never happened. Instead, Gregory had to field the ball from deep inside his 22 and his attempted touch-finder was charged down by Hoskins Sotutu. All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii was on hand to dive on the ball and score the try.
? Hoskins Sotutu with the try assist!ADVERTISEMENT
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) June 27, 2020
Social media was abuzz with admiration for just how tactically proficient the Blues were at commanding territory through the boot.
Really noticing Barrett’s quality kicking off both right and left boot. Don’t think Aussie players can come close to matching that ambidexterity #BLUvHIG
— James Duncan (@jdunc0305) June 27, 2020
The Blues kicking into that left corner has been excellent all game. Great chase to force the block and score through Papali’i. #BLUvHIG
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) June 27, 2020
Really smart kicking game being adapted by the Blues. #BLUvHIG
— Ciaron Noble (@CiaronNoble98) June 27, 2020
— Dylan Jack (@dylanmattjack) June 27, 2020
Blues’ tactical kicking light years better this season. Nock a step up as a passing halfback too. #bluvhig
— Simon Mee (@SimonMee5) June 27, 2020
One kick, in particular, garnered specific praise – when number 8 Sotutu picked the ball up at the back of the scrum and punted off a kick of his own.
Did… did Sotutu just casually take a ball off the scrum and kick it with pinpoint accuracy to put the Highlanders under pressure inside their 22m? WHERE HAS THIS KID BEEN?!?!!? #BLUvHIG
— Brodyn Knuckey (@BKnuckey) June 27, 2020
Love it when a number 8 picks up and nudges one down the touch line ? #BLUvHIG
— Ross Jones (@RossJones1992) June 27, 2020
The Blues can settle into their bye-week knowing that they’re ticking all the right boxes at the moment. Yes, there are work ons – but across the park, they’re doing everything they need to get the wins.
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