Moana Pasifika ‘reset’ for crosstown Blues clash

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Coach Aaron Mauger said the decision to play games in midweek provided an opportunity for players who might otherwise have to wait longer for their chance to play.


The side named was hungry, and they had prepared well.


Mauger said with six games in three weeks, Friday night's first win had been a good starting point, and he was happy with where the side was. 'Reset' had been the word around their camp ahead of Tuesday's game with the Blues.


He was confident the first game in a possible long-standing rivalry within Auckland would be a great occasion and was expecting a good crowd along, notwithstanding it being a Tuesday night game.


"For a lot of our boys it is special because they have grown up in this area, they know a lot of the players, they're close with them, and it is an opportunity to get out and express themselves in a Moana Pasifika jersey," he said.


Mauger said it was still early days for the side at Super Rugby level, but they knew they belonged. They looked at the small wins they could get as they developed into a complete side and organisation.


"We were proud to get the result [on Friday against the Hurricanes], but it was all the little things along the way since January 5, our first day together, that we've been building. We know that it is still going to be tough.

"We're in a brutal competition against quality New Zealand teams so the reset was making sure we keep it humble, we don't get too far ahead of ourselves," he said.


More than half of the side for Tuesday will be making their debuts, but they had all been preparing well, and by continuing the small gains, they could get in positions to compete.


When they went to the golden point against the Hurricanes on Friday, Mauger's message had been to do the simple things well and to be patient.


"It worked well for us in the second half. We were a lot more patient defensively, gave away fewer penalties. It felt like we started to find our rhythm. We were a lot more patient with the ball, which allowed us to build pressure.


"So, we knew if we did that we'd give ourselves a chance and ultimately we did, there were 13 phases before we turned the ball over for that last try," he said.


The side was well-led, although first five-eighths, and on-field captain, Christian Leali'ifano had asked him over the radio if Lincoln McClutchie could go on at the 80-minute mark.


"I thought he had such a good feel for the game at the time, and his leadership was outstanding through the growth we saw in the second half. We backed him to stay on and do the job, he was a calming influence," he said.


Mauger said coaching the side felt natural to him, having grown up with his Pacific Island mother and grandmother.


"For me it feels like I'm home. I'm loving it, I'm enjoying every day. I love the energy the boys bring," he said.


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