Blues vs Rebels: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Rebels took a win in Auckland, breaking a three-year drought in New Zealand.

What are we talking about after that clash?

1. Hooker SOS for Wallabies

 

@wallabies sweating on Uelese scans.🤞#BLUvREB #SuperRugby

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It was painful for Rebels fans to see Jordan Uelese go down in the 69th minute in Auckland, but it is an even bigger worry for the Wallabies. Uelese was the most-likely starter for the Wallabies in the first Test, the most experienced of the three rakes in the squad after playing two Tests in 2018. Depending on the severity of what looked like a knee injury, the Wallabies could be left to call on a third uncapped hooker against Ireland. The Rebels’ usual starting hooker Anaru Rangi would be in the mix to replace Uelese should he be ruled out, but so could Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu, who is highly rated in the Wallabies fold, despite playing limited NSW minutes this season.

2. Rebels answer some critics

The Rebels have had struggles with second-half fadeouts and poor defensive efforts this season, but those elements were more than rectified. The Rebels responded to every Blues challenge in Auckland and some desperate defensive efforts directly stopped Blues tries. It was an effort that broke a three-year drought on New Zealand soil, put them on top of the Australian conference at least temporarily, and actually showed why they might be a team worthy of playing Super Rugby finals.

3. Ruru steps up as Genia rests

Michael Ruru was impressive for the Rebels. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Rebels made the decision, in consultation with the Wallabies, to give Will Genia an extra week on the sideline to ensure he was at peak condition for the first Test. With a critical trip to New Zealand ahead of them, it was a decision that could have made or destroyed their season. Michael Ruru, though, played one of his best games of the year to give the Rebels’ super service in Genia’s absence. Genia’s absence has been costly for the Rebels at times this year, but a win like that would inject some handy confidence that they can win without him in difficult circumstances.

4. Eden Park a fortress no more

The All Blacks have made it one of the most intimidating destinations for rugby tourists, but visiting Super Rugby sides travel to Auckland with little trepidation these days. The Blues have not won a game at Eden Park this season, and did not look like much of a threat on the hallowed turf on Saturday night. Unfortunately only one other Australian team will have the chance to try and win in Auckland, because it could be a handy confidence boost before the Bledisloe.

5. Maddocks no Wallabies bolter

Jack Maddocks might be one of the youngest players in Michael Cheika’s June Series squad but Saturday’s match proved he is no bolter. Maddocks’ inclusion should not be a surprise to anyone, with his form this season, and another influential game in tough conditions proved that once again. The 21-year-old shows composure far beyond his age, and that will be a huge asset for the Wallabies in the next three weeks.

 

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