Super Rugby Pacific: New Blues coach Vern Cotter far from content after opening win over Fijian Drua

  • 25/02/2024

New head coach Vern Cotter was muted in his satisfaction after earning his maiden Super Rugby Pacific win with the Blues against Fijian Drua on Saturday.

A five-try first half for the hosts in Whangarei suggested the Drua may end up on the receiving end of an ugly scoreline.

But the visitors fought their way back into the contest with improved discipline and accuracy to win the second stanza 7-5, each team scoring a try apiece in what was ultimately a 34-10 victory for the Blues.

"The plan we had going into the game we more or less executed except for the start of the second half we turned it over, and they're too good a team to throw it over to," said Cotter after the game.  

"They scored straight away. We need to get better than that.

"They're a good team - better than they were last year - and they will be very hard in the islands, so we're very glad to get the win here. 

Vern Cotter.
Vern Cotter. Photo credit: Photosport

"There will be detail within the game - carry-cleans, support play, launch strikes, ball in air and kicking - we'll have to look at, but overall I would say the stress of going from friendly games to competition games at home against a team that's very powerful and fast, I thought we were okay and remained reasonably composed."

Cotter rued his side's failure to drive the dagger home after their emphatic first half, resting on their laurels and allowing the Drua to finish the stronger side, as lineout issues took their toll.

"If you look at where we can improve, it's putting points on, having a talk at halftime, and not going to sleep going back into the second half," he said.

"We lacked that discipline and made it difficult. We need to keep piling on good moments, and we didn't. If we're talking about our famous momentum, it went against us and that's dangerous.

"We pulled ourselves back into the game through good set piece, and the scrum was good today, bar a couple where we thought it was just going to happen. The first 20 minutes we were sluggish and didn't have a lot of linespeed.  

"We need a bit more energy and aggression at the start of games."

On a more positive note, the Blues' staunch defensive effort against the dangerous Drua left him much more contented, the highlight of which was a 23-phase stand on their own tryline to open the match.

"Things like that test character," he noted.

"That's not giving up, and is where the pride comes in. There's a lot of pride here, we just need to keep working on setting those standards around what we accept and what we don't."

The next test for the Blues takes place in Melbourne against the Highlanders next Friday as part of the inaugural Super Round, with both teams coming off a shorter six-day turnaround.