Competition, enjoyment boost Blues' revival

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Lynn McConnell     03 Apr 2019     Getty Images

Lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, who has been riding the wave of recent Blues success, said after some lineout issues in their own win over the Stormers at the weekend – they lost four of their own throws – the Waratahs had a strong defensive lineout and the Blues would have to be on their game.

The Blues needed to work on their attacking lineout after having concentrated so much on their defensive lineout last week.

"We need to spread the load on attack more so this week we are trying to cover all areas," he said.

Having been part of the Blues fabric since 2016, it is not surprising that Cowley-Tuioti, with 36 appearances behind him, is playing his most enjoyable rugby for the side at the moment.

The internal competition and the fact they were not worried by the injuries that have plagued them in the past – at the same time last year they had 18 players out – allied to the run of wins had made it all more enjoyable.

"It's good to have everyone available and not so many injuries so we are all pushing each other and getting results," he said.

There was also a changed approach in the side's preparation.

"Training is a lot harder, the boys are pushing each other a bit more. We have some big sessions out here [at the team's Alexandra Park training base] and the stuff that we work on you can see it out on the park and that's what's helping us," he said.

One of the criticisms of the Blues in recent years had been their tendency to individuality under pressure, but there had been more evidence of unity this season.

"I think we're working for each other, that's the big thing for us. We're growing that sense of being with a pack and the more we push each other, the more we can grow closer together. It is definitely something we want to work on, to be a feared pack," he said.

The propping resources have been a big factor in the side's improvement to the point where coach Leon MacDonald has been able to work tactical options by bringing All Blacks Ofa Tuungafase and Karl Tu'inukuafe off the bench, and sometimes playing on the opposite heads to usual.

"Having them come off the bench is a big impact for us," he said.

Lock and co-captain Patrick Tuipulotu had thrived in the leadership role and that was also having an effect, he said.

"I've played with Paddy for a few years now and he's definitely leading from the front so that's a good thing for the team because we're thriving off that, and from all our leaders. They're doing well and pushing all us young guys."

The defensive support the front five have been able to give has also had an impact and Cowley-Tuioti put that down to training in that area a lot better than they had been and better results were being seen. The more they succeeded, the more they could feel the internal growth and confidence growing.

The internal competition of Tuipulotu and Josh Goodhue playing well had its impact on Cowley-Tuioti and he was thriving on the challenge of pushing them for starting spots while others were also attempting to break into the 23 which was good for the side.

Flanker Tom Robinson had also been a boost for the side with his non-stop commitment and he had plenty of energy, on and off the field, Cowley-Tuioti said.

"It's good to have him around, you feed off that energy and it helps pick each other up," he said.

The Stormers had provided the Blues with one of their toughest tests, especially at the lineout.

"They've got some big guys, and so have we, but we knew it would come down to attitude and who would front up and that's why we trained all last week on maul defence. That's where we thought they'd come but they took us by surprise. But we were prepared for that. I think you saw that in the game, they tried to resort to that in the end and we were able to nullify that," he said.

Having to cope with the Stormers' running game put the pressure on to make tackles, and they made 182 compared to 92 by the Stormers and there had been some sore bodies afterwards, he said.

"But we were prepared for it and we reacted well as a team," he said.