Super Rugby
Lam hails savvy Blues
ESPNscrum Staff
June 25, 2011
The Blues' Ali Williams off loads the ball, Blues v Waratahs, Super Rugby Qualifier, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, June 24, 2011
Lock Ali Williams was one of the Blues' star performers in their victory over the Waratahs in Auckland © Getty Images

Blues coach Pat Lam heaped praise on his resurgent side after they booked a place in this year's Super Rugby semi-finals.

The Auckland-based side set up a showdown with the Reds in Brisbane next weekend with a 26-13 victory over the Waratahs at Eden Park on Friday night. Tries from winger Lachie Munro and lock Ali Williams propelled the Blues into the final four for the first time since 2007 but Lam was more impressed with the fact his side have learnt from their recent four-match losing streak.

The Blues only stopped the rot last week when beating the Highlanders in the last round of the regular season, but Lam said the lessons from that run of results were a weapon in subduing the Waratahs. "Things that happened out there in the four losses we had, a lot of lessons and things we didn't quite do right before, as a coach it was just so pleasing to see them tidy things up there and emphasise the learning that has happened from those games," Lam said.

"I know everyone thought we were imploding from the four losses but your team culture, systems and structures have to be tested as you go through and it doesn't get tested at nine games undefeated. It gets tested under four losses and that's where you get the growth and that's what I saw out there which was pleasing."

Blues captain Kevin Mealamu hopes the team can now build on the victory, having conquered early nerves against the Tahs. "We're really happy with the way we're going at the moment," he said. "There was a lot of emotion during the week and that's probably why we didn't get off to as good a start as we would have liked. But after 20 minutes we got back into our work and I was really happy with the team."

Retiring Waratahs captain Phil Waugh felt their failure to accumulate more points during a dominant first quarter put the team under too much pressure. The Tahs led 5-0 early on but eventually succumbed to 26-13 loss to end their season. "They played smart football. I thought Stephen Brett and [Luke] McAlister controlled the game very well. Once they were under pressure they turned us round and put us under pressure," Waugh said.

"It was a difficult night for us. You can't question the guys' character and effort. We just played not the smartest football. We could've played down their end a bit more and not put ourselves under as much pressure as we did. In saying that we had a good crack and the guys, in terms of their character, stood up and did as well as we could. I was pretty proud of the guys."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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