Sportal.co.nz 27.Apr.2012Getty Images
There were times when the Reds looked decidedly ordinary, their indiscipline, especially in conceding penalties, allowing the Blues to stay in the game longer than their lack of form might have warranted.
But there was always Genia, hovering, or hoovering, at the base of rucks and mauls to lift his side with special acts of brilliance. And the most decisive of these was his pass across the face of the Blues' goal-line moments into the second half to allow wing Dom Shipperley to put the Reds out to a 12-point, and match-winning lead.
It wasn't a game that required him to be a constant force, but he did things at the right moments and that was the decisive factor.
Reds No.8 Scott Higginbotham also had an inspired game, revelling in the wet conditions as intermittent showers crossed the ground. He was a constant presence in defence and ensured his side had its share of possession at the breakdown. Flankers Liam Gill and Beau Robinson were constant supporters in all facets.
If the Reds lacked their championship-winning flourishes of last season, the Blues continued to find ways to deny themselves opportunities with their lineout still dysfunctional at times and the decision-making at a level below required to assure it of a measure of control for the required lengthy periods needed to win games.
That said skipper and flanker Luke Braid led superbly in attempting to contain the Reds threat in the loose while the assurance of first five-eighths Gareth Anscombe continued to develop. Wing George Moala looked dangerous and hungry when looking for work while replacement centre Benson Stanley managed the most decisive line-break in the game, only to run out of support at the vital stage.
It would be easy to say the Reds rocked the Blues with two tries in the first six minutes, but the first, one minute into the game to centre Digby Ioane, came from No.8 Peter Saili's failure to catch the kick-off to start the game.
The Reds secured the ball and a deftly placed kick to the corner by first five-eighths Ben Lucas found lock Rob Simmons perfectly placed to step infield, create the ruck where Ioane burrowed in, secured the ball and scored in a melee.
Four minutes later, quick possession from a ruck was moved to second five-eighths Mike Harris, who cut back in, gave quick possession where Lucas' long pass found flying fullback Luke Morahan who ran into space and across for the most basic of tries. Harris' conversion carried the Reds to a 12-0 lead.
By the 20-minute mark the Blues were starting to find more cohesion and after a midfield bust by centre Rene Ranger created the blindside rush which saw Saili charge down the sideline to feed infield to lock Filo Paulo. However, he was taken without the ball and the Blues took the lineout option from the resulting penalty.
They secured the ball, created the maul and in the drive to the line it was Luke Braid who scored.
They went close again after 30 minutes when Weepu and Saili were each ground just short of the line. The chance came from a scrum-ruck where second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu's huge pass to fullback Hadleigh Parkes created room for wing Rudi Wulf. He kicked ahead and trapped halfback Will Genia and in the resulting lineout play the Blues rumbled the ball with the penalty being conceded for Anscombe to goal.
Another prompt try to the Reds, after the resumption, when a superbly judged pass from Genia to right wing Dom Shipperley saw him touch down in the corner two minutes into the spell.
Blues 11 (Luke Braid try; Gareth Anscombe 2 pen) Reds 23 (Digby Ioane, Luke Morahan, Dom Shipperley tries; Mike Harris con, 2 pen). HT: 8-15