The blues repel Moana Pacifika

Moana Pacifica 19
Blues 32

Four days after their historic success at the golden point in Super Rugby, Moana Pacifica presented another shocking show to seriously knock the Blues in the first edition of the rivalry between the cities.

After surprising the Hurricanes at the Mt Smart Stadium last Friday night, Moana Pasifika formed a completely rejuvenated team with 13 Blues debuts after many late-day changes due to further Covid cases.

Despite these extensive changes, Moana’s spirit and faith were identical. Their depth also performed wonderfully. And their first genuine crowd responded with a dynamic atmosphere to ride their every success, metaphor, effort.

The Blues, arriving with a key from the Highlanders who beat Dunedin last Saturday, were in control as they led 19-0 at the end of the first half before Moana Pasifika began their now-famous comeback.

Moana Pasifika’s prostitute Luteru Tolai struggled shortly before the break – one of five in the line-up game – to boost the crowd and the home side came out of the sheds breathing fire for the second half.

Solomona Kata, playing on the ground that appeared regularly for the Warriors, was held above the line. A few minutes later Abraham Pole scored in his debut to inspire a surge of faith. If Tolay had not been deprived of his arm for a double move, the result might well have been different.

With the Blues firmly in the back of the All Blacks, Nepo Laulala further opened the door for Moana, after receiving the red card for the shoulder with the head clean in the 58th minute.

When Moana winger Tomasi Alosio made a great effort from Lincoln McClutchie’s shot, Aaron Mauger’s men closed out 24-19 in the final quarter. Despite their one-man advantage, this time Moana could not deliver the killer blow, but they gave the Blues the right number.

“There have been some tense moments, that’s for sure,” said Blues coach Leon MacDonald. “A red card put us under more pressure. We managed to get down to the other end and run and turn the game around. It was always close. We got what we thought we would get.”

In these tense closing stages, Moana achieved a lineout 10 minutes away from the Blues line. All Blacks half back Finlay Christie slipped off the bench in a significant effort and Stephen Perofeta converted the penalty to save the Blues blush.

While they could not find the composure to close this match, Moana overcame the Blues in the second half and proved again that he is here to challenge, here for the match.

“They beat the Crusaders in the first rounds; the leaders were able to get away and then with the hurricanes and now we. No one has escaped from Moana,” McDonald said. “They are a great team and I know they all fully respect them because when they raise their tail it is extremely difficult to stop them. They belong to this band and they bring their own taste.”

In many ways this was not a true reflection of the Blues. The overthrow of the three days forced MacDonald to give playing time to his wider team and they did enough to get away with a five-three-three victory.

However, it was a close run that would offer invaluable lessons in many green perspectives.

“We have to learn a quick lesson because we will do it all again in a few days, so we hope to be fast learners.”

There were known issues for Moana Pasifika in the first half with her discipline putting them in the back and the defense keeping them in the game.

Without leader Sekope Kepu, the scramble was Moana’s biggest problem with Alex Hodgman winning many penalties against his opponent, Joe Apikotoa.

Moana Pasifika spent much of the first spell playing from half of it and choosing the three Blues backs. There was a reluctance to kick the ball out, with Hawke’s Bay playmaker McClutchie looking determined to avoid the sideline.

These tactics gave the dangerous bull back Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepens and Talea plenty of opportunity to counter-attack. Moana’s pursuit line broke at times, but to a large extent they held steady.

The Blues’ three attempts in the first half came from pure possession and pressure. Tamati Tua scored first after a well-aimed kick by Tanielu Tele’a and former Hurricanes prostitute Ricky Riccitelli won a close double.

The MacDonald’s men go 4-1 for the season and will now host their starting line-up again for the rematch against Moana Pasifika in Eden Park on Saturday.

This is seen as a very different prospect for Moana, but, given their spirit so far, another competitive performance looks good within their capabilities.

At this juncture, Moana Pasifika coach Aaron Mauger has every reason to be proud.

“We talked about small wins last week that led to an absolute result and there was so much more to celebrate tonight,” Mauger said. “We were close. It is a good feeling to play with the best teams in this tournament.

“We had some more challenges in the last 48 hours with a few more Covid cases coming and a lot of changes – we met some kids for the first time this morning who came on the bench. “We had a lot of deep breaths and we laughed to focus on the front.”

Moana Pacific 19 (Luteru Tolai, Abraham Pole, Tomasi Alosio tryes, D’Angelo Leuila con, Lincoln McClutchie con)

Blues 32 (Tamati Tua, Ricky Riccitelli 2, Luke Romano, Finlay Christie tryes, Stephen Perofeta 2 con, στυλό)

HT: 5-19

The blues repel Moana Pacifika

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