Amidst the carnage of Bay of Plenty’s 54-21 humbling from Waikato in Friday night’s Mitre 10 Cup clash one well-performed Steamer was marking a personal milestone.
Since fetching up in the Bay at the beginning of last season after emerging from his native Thames Valley, via an 18-match stretch at Counties Manukau, Richard Judd has looked the business at halfback in the blue and gold hoops, particularly noted for his tenacity in the tackle and sniping around the edge of scrums and rucks which regularly get his team going forward.
Friday night’s match was his 15th in Bay colours, earning him his blazer. A proud honour, he says, but one he wishes might have been accompanied by happier circumstances than the eight tries to three hammering they took from their cross-Kaimai rivals.
“It’s an awesome union and I’m really honoured to get my blazer, but yeah I definitely didn’t think it would be going that way in the blazer game. (Waikato) racked up a few points, credit to them they played bloody well.
“But really honoured to get the 15 games under my belt.”
In spite of the result, their fourth defeat on the bounce, Juddy’s enjoying the environment at the Steamers.
“They’re a good bunch of lads. A few new fellahs this year as well but they’ve come in and really stepped up, but unfortunately we just couldn’t put it together tonight.”
Confidence was one of the critical differences between the teams, with Waikato showing total belief in themselves and their ability to attack from anywhere, while the Steamers looked shell-shocked from their failure to turn their initial dominance into points, and never recovered once the visitors got up the other end and opened the scoring.
To get back to where they want to be, he says, they could do worse than take a leaf out of Waikato’s book.
“It’s like they just play, they’re enjoying it. It reflects in their game as well. I think when we’re on the back foot we kind of drop our heads a bit and that doesn’t pay off in the end.
“We need to start enjoying it and playing a bit of footy.”
Learning from Waikato’s example and taking it back to basics will be on their minds when they look to remedy the situation this week ahead of what is now a genuine must-win encounter with Manawatu Thursday night, Richard says.
“Definitely. We’ll take it back to the drawing board and have a look at our game and review that.
“We’ll take the good things out of it, because we played some good footy but just didn’t capitalise on it.”
They might do well to take a look too at the example set by Bay of Plenty’s Jock Hobbs Memorial national under 19s tournament winning team. Their fearless, free-spirited brand of rugby has brought a sense of positivity to the union, he says.
“Those under 19s boys, they’re the future as well and they’re playing some bloody good footy.
“For them coming off that campaign it’s exciting for next year and the next couple of years.”
With four winnable matches still to come against fellow Championship division travellers Manawatu, Otago, Southland and Northland, the Steamers’ chances of getting back into the playoffs picture, and even emulating their performance last year when they made the final and took Wellington all the way to extra time, are still alive.
“It’s definitely not over,” says Juddy. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and look ahead for the following week and step forward.”
Diplomatically, and perhaps with a touch of irony, he wasn’t expecting coach Clayton McMillan to be tearing too much paint off the walls when they sat down in the debrief room.
“No he’s good. He’ll let us know what we need to be working on. Tell us what we need personally as well.
“So we’ll definitely be getting a good word from him anyway.”