In sports, there are positives to be taken from adversary. You naturally have to focus on them, before admitting to your failings. On a night of ups and downs for the hosts though, when the whistle blew time off the record read ‘Auckland Blues fail to produce a win at home’.
Not pretty, even while over 100 points were scored at Eden Park, the majority of those were achieved from the visiting Sharks team. And the faithful Blues fans, who annually grasp onto hopes of a comeback, would feel that tonight’s rollercoaster ride was all to familiar.
Possibly for some it felt worse. Worse because when the home side recovered to be 28-26 up, they saw some hope. Head coach Tana Umage saw it too, but it was fleeting. By the time that the Sharks were back to a full team; the attached video shows when the Blues lost one of theirs for 10 minutes in the bin, the team failed to produce a win at home.
40-63. That’s a century of points scored, and with eight tries a piece, one of the only positives being gained by the Blues was that they could deny the visitors a try-scoring bonus point. But that was all they denied them, as discipline and silly mistakes blighted the game.
One man could celebrate though. 13 out of 13 kicks from the accurate boot of Robert du Preez, earned him 38 points – just two points less than the Blues in fact scored themselves. The second best points tally ever in Super Rugby; a record the Blues will not enjoy being a part of.
After examining these two teams chances, the outcome will have one teams fans very relieved. While the home teams’ fans may still have enjoyed the post-match autograph session out on the field, returning to their homes they would have been less satisfied as the Auckland Blues fail to produce…. yet again.
Auckland Blues fail to produce a win at home against Sharks
The Sharks head coach Robert du Preez [father of the first five with the same name] was happy to speak with media. He now saw some positives from his sides tour downunder, a long four-week trip that ends next week against the Hurricanes.
“We knew coming into this clash, we needed to be more accurate when we have opportunity”. And while for the entire match his players tried hard, they didn’t have the match their own way.
du Preez admitted that the opening half was less than satisfactory. His team let in a try to Michael Collins. They then almost allowed Akira Ioane to give his impression of the late Sione Lauaki, blasting his way toward the corner. Fortunately for the Sharks though, Akira was maybe arrogant not to aim closer to the goalposts – his touchdown in the far corner showing on TMO replay, a big foot in touch.
The ruling gave the Sharks space, and soon Andre Esterhuizen broke free and sent Jean-Luc du Preez in for a great flankers try. The accuracy that the head coach asked for, came in the form of super-boot son Robert. He fired over the early conversions and penalties, to go into halftime at 7-26.
— vodacomrugby (@VodacomRugga) March 31, 2018
Second half performance full of ‘Ups and Downs’ before Sharks rejoice
When Tana Umaga looked back on the game, he was clearly embarrassed. More so by the scoreline, which should have been under control, but was enlarged by seven penalties within kicking distance.
Asked how he felt about leaking 60 points, he replied “nah it’s not good. We’ve got to look at it, it’s not just a systems thing, it’s an individual thing. It’s again errors, it’s discipline. Letting them off, when we had put pressure on them”. And that point summarized the second half, where the Auckland Blues fail to control matches, even when they gain some parity.
From being down by 19 points, a yellow card for a Sharks high tackle turned the game back into the hosts hands. They immediately saw Akira Ioane score, and then the ‘small in statements, big on effort’ Patrick Tupulotu broke the line and ran 40 meters to score. Then one of the bright points of the game was delivered (sadly covered up by the outcome).
Stephen Perofeta; handed the reins after Bryn Gatland’s poor display in Cape Town, found his legs. A kick rebounded off a Sharks player, and Perofeta ran onto the ball. At full pace, he was able to weave his way for over 50 meters, to score a brilliant solo effort. Umaga would have wanted to celebrate those positives, yet with all the ‘ups and downs’ it still meant his side were bested after 80 minutes. Even though they scored six tries!
Sharks Captain happy to get season ‘back on track’
Ruan Botha spoke to SkySports and said “it hasn’t been an easy start to our campaign, we we’re really trying to get it back on track”. And with this win, it will certainly help.
— Steve Haag Sports (@STEVEHAAGSPORT) March 31, 2018
His group would feel they had dodged a bullet, one which ‘hit them hard’ in last weeks loss to the Melbourne Rebels, 46-14. ‘Bouncing back’ from adversary is a crucial factor in sport, as much as looking inward to learn from your mistakes.
Blues lock Josh Goodhue pointed that out, in saying “we started well, and we had the opportunity to win the game. But our momentum stopped for some reason, we’ll have to look at that next week.”
Failure to produce consistency, failure to execute and falling to old mistakes were the issues that set-in over this game. Poor kicking choices, along with handling errors, made for a poor night. Even with 59% possession, it was how the Blues failed to use much of that possession, which will baffle the Auckland teams management.
Some attacking moves were cut short by handling errors; 14 compared to 12,. And again, the home side led in offloads but the outcome of many phases of play resulted in the Sharks defence stopping the desired effect. And then the visitors advanced, and scored heartbreaking tries all too often.
In 80 minutes, the Sharks scored a massive 63 points
It was only fitting that the Sharks would have the final say in the game. Pushing hard, and looking to be industrious right up to the final siren, Jean Luc du Preez walked through a ruck to create a turnover. That was shifted quickly to a flying Curwin Bosch. The lightweight fullback effortlessly cut the Blues backline, and crossed for the 12th try of the match.
It was the full stop on the result, and their coach said that “the boys came back and stuck at it.” Demonstrating a better attitude for one. One that was lacking tonight for the home side sadly.
They were left embarrassed, and will take the long weekend break to look hard at what they can do to change their fortunes. Coach Umaga commented, “a big thing we’re working on is ‘when to play, where to play from’. And that’s an understanding of the game.
“Understanding when and where, if we’ve lost momentum, where to shift it, and turning that around.”
Those skills are something which his team were unable to do in the final 20 minutes. It was an all too familiar result too, where the Auckland Blues fail to produce a win at home against the Sharks. This South African franchise won their fifth victory in their last six visits.
For the home team, if they want to be anywhere near to the competition leaders, then the clear failings from tonight need to be removed. And removed quickly.