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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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Watch: The Blues' virtuoso kicking game that proved the difference in their win over the Highlanders

By Online Editors
Beauden Barrett. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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Auckland Blues winger Caleb Clarke talks about being a part of the back to back wins his team have enjoyed to begin Super Rugby Aotearoa.
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Auckland Blues winger Caleb Clarke talks about being a part of the back to back wins his team have enjoyed to begin Super Rugby Aotearoa.

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.

Social media was abuzz with admiration for just how tactically proficient the Blues were at commanding territory through the boot.

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.

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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RUGBYPASS+ The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation
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