Blues coach Sir John Kirwan is fooling no one

MARC HINTON
Last updated 23:33 22/03/2014
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Benji Marshall crosses paths with Blues coach Sir John Kirwan during the game.

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Sir John Kirwan rode his luck through 80 minutes on Eden Park last night, then did so again in the media room afterwards when he described his side's unconvincing victory over the Cheetahs as a "great 80-minute effort".

Kirwan is fooling no one bar possibly himself with that summation of a match where the Blues were extremely fortunate to emerge with a bonus point victory over a Cheetahs side that exposed his tiring outfit badly after halftime.

The Blues got the rub of the green they were probably due when two big calls went their way -- the first-half sinbinning of Cheetahs flanker Boom Prinsloo and the decision by referee Francisco Pastrana soon after to award George Moala a try against his TMO's advice.

Those twin decisions played a big part in a fortuitous 40-30 victory, with the Cheetahs twice closing within a score of levelling the match late after trailing 30-16 at halftime.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske lamented both calls which he believed cost his side the chance of salvaging a first win from their four-game tour.

"In my opinion it wasn't a yellow-card. Two crucial decisions really cost us - the yellow card and the double-movement where the TMO clearly said it was a double-movement and the referee over-ruled him."

Drotske said he - like Kirwan last week after his raw deal in Jo'burg -- would be heading to Sanzar refs boss Lyndon Bray for a "please explain".

"If you want to over-rule the TMO it's got to be clear and obvious. If that wasn't a double-movement I don't understand the rule. I'll definitely follow the channels and talk to Lyndon Bray."

Kirwan preferred to gloss over his side's shortcomings on the quick turnaround after the trip back from Africa, though did acknowledge the Blues had luck on their side.

"It was a great 80-minute effort after the week we've been through," he said. "We knew we'd run out of juice a wee bit. I'm just incredibly proud of the guys - to fly back from Africa, this was a real difficult game physically, and we had a pretty tough week, so I'm really pleased with the effort the guys put in."

And the contentious calls?

"I think in real time there wasn't a double-movement but it's one of those question marks. For us the yellow card was legit and they'll probably say different. It's what happens every week."

Kirwan was also rapt with another convincing display from rookie five-eighth Simon Hickey, and also felt Steven Luatua answered his own challenge with a powerhouse effort up front that saw him switch to lock late. He was also pleased with nearly a half-hour each off the bench from returning internationals Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino.

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- Fairfax Media

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