'We're never gonna take any chances': Blues suffer Beauden Barrett scare
The Blues may have escaped from Dunedin with a seven-point win over the Highlanders but there will be concerns surrounding star playmaker Beauden Barrett, who had to leave the field in the second half after taking a hefty knock.
Barrett spent the early weeks of Super Rugby Pacific sidelined due to a concussion that had been incurred during the penultimate match of last year’s All Blacks campaign. He made his first appearance of 2022 off the bench against the Chiefs and then didn’t feature last weekend, only making his first starting appearance of the season against the Highlanders on Saturday night.
Barrett, playing in the No 10 jersey, was dangerous for the Blues during the first half, kicking eight points throughout the 40 minutes and capping off the performance with a well-taken try right before the break.
Disaster struck just minutes after the second spell kicked off, however, with Barrett crumpling to the ground and taking no further role on defence throughout the following sequence of phases after making a tackle on big Highlanders centre Fetuli Paea.
When play came to a halt, Barrett was eventually escorted off the field by medics – ostensibly for a head injury assessment. Barrett never returned to the field, however.
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Following the match, Blues coach Leon MacDonald said that the Blues were always going to err on the side of caution when it came to the 30-year-old’s health.
“Look, it was a no-brainer,” said MacDonald. “He got a good contact to his face – that’s why he’s got a bleeding nose and a [fat] lip.
“We’re never gonna take any chances with Beauden, we want to look after his health and make sure he’s well. It was an automatic decision, really.”
There was certainly no hint of foul play involved in the knock, with MacDonald crediting the Highlanders for their fast-paced, aggressive running and clean-outs, particularly in the second 40.
“It was just one of those carries that the Highlanders started chucking in the second half,” he said. “They were brutal carries – body on the line stuff. And their clean-outs were ferocious in the second half and [Barret] was on the end of one.”
While it was too early to say whether Barrett would be set for another stint on the sidelines, MacDonald suggested that the Blues were remaining optimistic about their playmaker’s situation.
“He’s got a good fat lip and a bleeding nose and hopefully it’s nothing much more than that. We’ll have to track him and see how he cleans up.”
The Blues led the match 18-6 when Barrett left the field, with the two teams then trading scores for the remainder of the match. Every time the Highlanders fought their way over the line, the Blues struck back, eventually holding on to secure a 32-25 victory.
With Barrett out of action, the in-form Stephen Perofeta entered the fray and helped steer the Blues home, with MacDonald praising the impact of the super-sub.
“Stevie did a great job,” MacDonald said. “He’s got that X-factor with his running game and his goal-kicking’s been world-class and I think he’s starting to really control a game well so we’re pretty fortunate there.”
Should Barrett remain unavailable, Perofeta will undoubtedly step back into the starting jersey on Tuesday night for the Blues’ mid-week clash with Moana Pasifika.