In a first-class performance that demonstrates his finishing ability, Rieko Ioane duly assisted the Blues to a comforting victory over the Sunwolves.
The below video highlight package shows that each team had to show their best, with the home side gelling the better – and retaining a full complement of players. In the end, the Sunwolves were determined to catch the Blues but, a yellow card reduced their chances and the four-try-to-two win gives the Auckland franchise their first win of 2019.
Blues 28 – Tries: Rieko Ioane (4) tries; Conversion: Harry Plummer; Penalties: Plummer, Otere Black
Sunwolves 20 – Tries: Rikiya Matsuda, Uwe Helu; Cons: Matsuda (2); Pens: Matsuda (2).
It was a team effort, all the while that Rieko Ioane gains the kudos. So often the ‘finisher’ gets the rewards, but in saying this, the All Blacks winger is demonstrating that his record of tries for the national team, can be an asset for the Blues as well.
That is, if the side plays well enough to utilize those finishing skills.
Blues biggest asset in 2019 = Rieko Ioane
If past records are examples to judge by, then the rise of Rieko Ioane has been recognized from an early age. That began from the Auckland Grammar first XV, the All Blacks Sevens as a 17-year old sensation, to his debut season playing for Auckland. His finishing ability translated to Mitre 10 Cup form, where he led the competition in tries scored, defenders beaten and metres made.
He next made his debut for the All Blacks in late 2016. Scoring a try in his first attempt has established a remarkable tryscoring ratio: 22 tries in 22 matches. Outstanding!
Today, Blues head coach Leon MacDonald also recognizes his winger’s contribution. “The Blues are at their best when guys like Rieko are carrying the ball. It just hasn’t gone their way the last couple of weeks. So to see him get his hands on the ball was exciting and pleasing.”
Investing in that asset, and integrating Ioane in the backline will support the team’s efforts to return the Blues to finish inside the top eight. For the fanbase, that is the ultimate goal. But as well, there is nothing more exciting than seeing a winger crossing the line. It gets fans through the gates too.
The Blues have had some fine finishes in the past, so how does Rieko Ioane compare?
Blues wingers ‘role of honour’
Many names roll off the tongue when recalling some of the Blues finest outside backs. They evolved back in 1996, when the Auckland franchise helped establish Super Rugby as the home for ‘razzle dazzle’ football that attracted fans across the globe.
Jonah Lomu: any list must start with ‘the big guy’. He is quite possibly the most well-known figure, for exploits in All Black, as well as Blue.
There is little comparison between Lomu and Ioane. The former could break through most walls of defence, yet Rieko Ioane uses his ability to go around and to evade cover defence, rather than to run through it.
Rupeni Caucaunibuca: this player was not as big as Jonah, but his elusive ability electrified Blues crowds in 2002 and 2003. The speed, the ability to read defenses and the interplay that ‘Caucau’ had with Carlos Spencer, rewarded the franchise with a third championship title.
Ioane does have similarities to Rupeni. Being in the right place, and breaking into open space to convert opportunities, yet without such explosive speed from a standing start.
Doug Howlett: one of the more consummate outside backs to ever wear the Blues jersey. A polished finisher, he was more often involved in both offence and defence. Fast; often able to outpace his opponent, and in that way, Howlett was able to mount the highest number of tries in Blues Super Rugby history.
Rieko has a number to aim for, and if the four tries against the Sunwolves are an example, the target of Howlett’s 55 tries, is one Ioane can chase down in his term.
Joe Rokococo: known as an elegant winger, this Blues player perfected the ‘body swerve’ which bamboozled many an opposition player. He translated precision, power and a positive influence on attack, that many players wished to replicate.
The two players are able to run off others or act individually. Rokococo is more remembered for his superman dive (when scoring a try) and his humble manner when finishing the work of others. Rieko Ioane would do well to incorporate that in his nature; not as much Chris Ashton ‘swan dive’ but, more so in gliding over the line.
Other Blues players to acknowledge include Rudi Wulf, Isaia Toeava, Caleb Ralph, Rene Ranger, Charles Piutau. Norm Berryman and Adrian Cashmore. All have added to the history of the franchise in their own way.
Indeed Rieko Ioane is continuing that trend. Adding his own story in his 35 match history. If an injury does not interfere with his current season, then he can assist the Blues in their goals. That will then lead towards the players All Blacks dream – of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.
“Main photo credit”
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