We will start with Karl Tu’inukuafe at loosehead prop for The Blues. Where he made a big contribution last night. Both to look after the defense. Alongside his attacking offerings that hurt Melbourne.
He possesses a great read which is important to protect his zone. Especially when the Rebels were struggling for some support up front. And not only he helped mark one or two players. Karl also had a look at their scrum feed. Even when Joe Powell has the first feed in against his side. That is how he used his packed muscle to lock them out with the collapse.
It convinced the referee to give the ball to The Blues. Where they made up a couple of successful three pointers. Followed by a couple of touch scores. Karl did not even have to complete the whole game. When his side were good to go towards an easy win. After he came off for Ofa Tuungafasi in the 52nd minute. At 135kg it is hard to get past this sort of stature like Karl. If any one cannot get back up. Whether when they tried to clear out or score tries. Then he will hold them back. And let his Blues side execute with the hard work he put in.
There are so many Blues players who made such an impact. But I will have to go to Akira Ioane off the bench. This side were a bit of trouble. When Adrian Choat was punished in the naughty chair. It was exactly in the same role he played on the openside back row. And since Akira came on Blues seemed to be settled with him.
He was so involved going forward in all areas. Especially when his side were able to get around the Rebels half. Got himself ready towards the execution. Based on a wonderful read to keep that passage of play. Before Akira unpacked it with so much physicality & pace. And that is how he touched down both scores to make it half-century. Even in the 2nd 40 alone.
I may not have followed Super Rugby Aotearoa for much this year. But Akira did his fair share to put himself back at No.7 next Saturday. He is such an impact player who changes the game. The defensive test is demonstrated. When he gets to read the opposition bring isolated without numbers. Before he was blessed through the patient attacking setup. And that helped him execute into an even all-round star. It is something any opposing team would be punished by his attributes.
It is so hard to get through such a big loss against them. Even on their home crowd at AAMI Park in Melbourne. But only one player who did his best last night. And that is Rob Leota who plays at lock. So on the left hand side (No.4) at second rower.
The defensive setup was there at the beginning. Where the Rebels kept it simple along the way. He read well with The Blues earlier handling errors. As well as the improper communication going forward. It gave them a few resets for his side to try and get themselves ahead. As well as a few winning penalties. Where the Rebels only kicked one three point goal.
But unfortunately his side were unable to make up the attack. Especially when they struggled for support numbers. So does the poor line-out. It sums up the miscommunication which forced The Blues hand. Not only it limits their chances with the ball. It ultimately gave their forwards a hard time to defend. That is how Rob expressed his frustration post-game last night. He may be happy to play against five New Zealand teams. Which is going to be a long-term benefit. But needs help to unpack the best of the attack next time. If they are to stay in contention for the full 80. Especially with a change of head coach recently in Kevin Foote.