Munro lifts Blues to semi-finals
Friday, June 24, 2011 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
In the 62nd minute, the Blues had launched a counter attack after a period of kicking and while the ball was mis-judged between Blues backs and forwards lined out, it was centre Benson Stanley who tidied. Munro ran onto his pass and his quick hands provided time on the wing where lock Ali Williams was waiting. He cut back in perfectly and was able to dive over for the match-winning try, which Munro, in the spirit of his game converted from wide out.
It was appropriate that Williams should score as he was back to the Williams of old, charging with the ball in hand, putting in deft kicks and dominating the lineouts in partnership with locking partner Anthony Boric, who wasn't far behind in overall contribution around the field.
The game also demonstrated the growth that flanker Luke Braid has undergone this season. As Waratahs legend Phil Waugh played his last game for the side, after yeoman service, Braid lost nothing in comparison to his more experienced rival.
Hard-running Waratahs forwards lock Sitaleki Timani and No.8 Dave Dennis were especially effective in rocking and unsettling the home side during the first half. But their good work was undone by mistakes which proved costly in their bid to put pressure on the home side.
First five-eighths Kurtley Beale looked controlled in setting up play but was rarely allowed the chance to create the sort of mayhem which is possible when a more stable foundation is available. However, his danger was demonstrated in the 73rd minute when he charged into the line to set up good ball which resulted in wing Lachie Turner crossing for the try.
Beale wasn't able to add the conversion and the 10-point buffer, and a cleared bench for the Blues was sufficient for the home side's energy to carry it into the semi-final next week.
Second five-eighths Luke McAlister sealed the deal for the home side with a 52m penalty goal three minutes from time.
The Blues started poorly, almost confused with how they should handle the Waratahs intent on defence. However, in the latter stages of the spell greater co-ordination produced better results and the Waratahs conceded penalties and Munro landed two penalty goals to take the Blues out to 13-8 lead at the break.
It was fourth time lucky for the Waratahs for try-scoring opportunities as the Blues looked to lack early structure in both on defence and in attack. But with centre Ryan Cross making good ground in mid-field and some solid driving play by the forwards the chance came in the 17th minute when Cross created enough room for second five-eighths Tom Carter to get across wide out.
That merely galvinised the Blues into action, firstly from a deftly-placed chip ahead from McAlister which fell neatly into wing Joe Rokocoko's arms. He hared downfield, in-passed to centre Jared Payne. He raced into the Waratahs 22m area and when the ball moved back across field, first five-eighths Stephen Brett baulked on his pass for Payne to feed McAlister. When he was tackled he slipped the ball to wing Lachie Munro who touched down in the 22nd minute.
He was hit hard after touching down and it was left to McAlister to attempt the conversion which put the Blues out to a 7-5 lead.
Conditions for the game were better than anticipated with forecast rain not eventuating and while the ground was damp it had little effect on the contest which was watched by a crowd of 16,100.
Blues 26 (Lachie Munro, Ali Williams tries; Luke McAlister con, pen; Munro con, 3 pen) Waratahs 13 (Tom Carter, Lachie Turner tries; Kurtley Beale pen). HT: 13-8
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