Umaga and the Blues get welcome lift

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Lynn McConnell     07 May 2018     Getty Images

The win, only the third for the Blues this season – all of them away from home in Tokyo, Johannesburg and Sydney – also maintained the New Zealand winning streak over Australian teams with the total now up to 38 without loss.


"It's huge for us," Umaga said.

"We've been through some struggles recently. We needed some positive outcomes for the amount of work we've put in and we knew that coming over the Tahs, the way they've been playing, were targeting us and we just wanted to put some pride back in our performances and our club," he said.

"I'm so proud of the way these guys stood up to it and all those things around them, the outside influences, they really hung in there and did what it took."

There was another satisfying outcome as well, none of the players were on crutches or sporting moon boots from injuries suffered in the game – an unusual feat in itself.

Umaga said first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta's performance lifted. He was a player who understood what his position required and he was very hard on himself.

"But it's a tough spot for a young man who is not naturally out-going and used to bossing people around. He's naturally quite quiet, but we've seen him come out of his shell a bit in recent weeks," he said.

"I'm very proud of him. He had a bit of a tough week last week but he bounced back very well and I thought he was outstanding."

He said the pressure to maintain the winning streak over the Australian sides was not something that had been in their thinking until it had been raised by the media on Thursday. They focused on the things they could control.

"A lot of people talked about it before [the game] but not us. We just knew that if we played to the plan as best we could, we would get the result and we're happy that it happened."

The defensive effort of the side had been impressive with flanker Dalton Papalii having one of the highest tackle counts in the game.

"He played really well for a young kid. He's very mature but he loves getting in there. He backs himself and he's taken every opportunity."

The inexperienced midfield of Rieko Ioane and Orbyn Leger also had a heavy night of tackling.

Ioane was still learning the position but the Blues management felt he was going to be very good in the role.

"Orbyn Leger was huge as were our outsides Tumua Manu and Caleb Clarke. We knew they would target our backs with their Wallaby-laden backline and we've got guys in their first games having come out of club rugby and Mitre 10 [Cup] and obviously Duff [Matt Duffie] orchestrated things from the back.

"They're a very determined lot and have taken every opportunity that's been given to them and they've really stepped up for what we wanted and they were really outstanding – the whole backline," he said.

When the Blues lost the ball at the last lineout of the game Umaga quipped his anxiety levels were not too bad.

"They're usually high anyway so I'm getting used to managing it."

He also acknowledged the contribution of flanker Jerome Kaino, halfback and captain Augustine Pulu and lock Patrick Tuipulotu who all returned from injuries to play the full 80 minutes.

Their effort had been unbelievable as they had all worked very hard to get back early from their injuries because they knew what they wanted to do, he said.