Rugby: Blues 17-31 Penguins

The first Blues match under their new captain ends in defeat.

Blues briggs penguins Rugby union. will

The Blues began to rebuild after their Varsity failure with a game against invitational side Penguins, with new captain Will Briggs’ first game sadly ending in defeat.

El Capitano

When a team structures their season around one do-or-die game and loses it, it’s never easy to come back and start building for the next one. But that’s exactly what new captain Will Briggs and his Blues have to do, and preparations are now firmly under way for their Varsity challenge in December.

The very first signs of a new, more intensive training program were on show last night at a decidedly Antarctic Grange Road as the Penguins club came to visit. If the Barbarians are the Real Madrid of invitational rugby sides, the Penguins are more like Preston North End: filled with tough, journeyman pros and solid championship players.

And the Penguins played just like an invitational side should, taking penalties quickly and throwing everything at the Blues, though they lacked the set-piece organisation of a team that plays together regularly. The Blues resisted, however, and were soon pinning the Penguins back inside their own half, thanks in part to strong carries from second-rows Nate Brakeley and Max Mather.

Ten minutes in, the Blues capitalised on a knock-on advantage to set up a Tom Hudson break, before Seb Tullie shifted play and Kristian Cook ran over in the corner for the first try. Only minutes later the Blues turned the ball over at a ruck in their own half, threw a couple of miss passes in midfield and set up a 2-on-1 which Will Smith was able to convert.

With 5 minutes remaining of the half the Penguins struck back, turning the Blues over and counter-attacking down the right wing in a move that saw captain Martin Nutt close the gap on the scoreboard. But in the last play before the interval Blues prop Matt Wyman intercepted a pass on halfway and fed Andrew Abraham who made the score at the break 17-7.

It was a majestic first half from the Blues, full of pace, good handling and aggression, but the second half was like a different match. With more substitutions than Sven Goran-Eriksson in a friendly against Albania, the Penguins came out a revitalised team.

They put the Blues under pressure and held on to the ball more effectively than in the first period, eventually leading to a line break and try from Paul King. Former Blue Dave O’Brien then scored two identical tries after the Penguins turned down penalty attempts at goal each time and used their bulky forwards to crash over the line. And with a few minutes to go the Penguins went through the forwards again and allowed Coventry’s Kerry O’Sullivan to squeeze over from close range.

The final score was 31-17, but Briggs should take heart from a dominant first half performance, well-organised set pieces and a back three of Smith, Hudson and Cook who look like they could endanger any defence they play against.

In the coming weeks the Blues take on each of the Armed Forces teams as the 2013 squad begins to take shape.