'He's on fire': Blues wing jumps to front of All Blacks queue
REACTION: Blues coach Leon MacDonald has hailed the match-winning qualities of Mark Telea after the wing jumped to the front of a queue of contenders for an All Blacks Test jersey.
A brilliant Telea scored four tries and was comfortably the game’s dominant figure as the Blues beat the Hurricanes 36-25 at Eden Park on Saturday to climb to third in the Super Rugby Pacific standings.
Each try called on the two-Test back’s range of talents.
In the first, he carried three defenders over the line, the second showcased his acceleration, the third his footwork and the fourth his handling skill as he scooped up a slippery ball.
MacDonald struggled to remember the last time a wing had been so influential in any game – let alone in wet conditions where the forward battle traditionally determines the outcome.
“He’s on fire at the moment,” MacDonald told journalists when asked if Telea is New Zealand’s premier wing.
“He was the difference really – close to the line or in the middle of the field, or wherever he decides to pop up.
“And that’s probably his point of difference. He’s all over the place, and you can’t get away from him. He’s dangerous and he’s just hungry to get his hands on the ball.”
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) May 27, 2023
Telea climbed to a competition-leading 11 tries for the season, level with Shaun Stevenson, who has starred on the wing for leaders the Chiefs.
Two powerful wins with Test experience – Caleb Clarke (Blues) and Leicester Fainga’anuku (Crusaders) – have also been standout figures while Crusaders’ speedster Will Jordan is back from injury and likely to start at wing or fullback in the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship campaign beginning in July.
Telea may have taken a firm grip on the right wing berth – a position he held for New Zealand’s last two Tests of 2022 because of injuries to others.
The 26-year-old, who bagged a double on debut against Scotland at Murrayfield in November, had developed into an opponent to fear, according to beaten Hurricanes coach Jason Holland.
“He was good, wasn’t he? He’s a quality player,” Holland said.
“I think what he’s doing defensively too is just as good as what you’re seeing with him scoring tries like he did tonight.”
Telea leads the competition for defenders beaten and running metres heading into the final round of regular season matches, in which the Blues will host the eighth-placed Highlanders on Friday.
— Sky Sport NZ (@skysportnz) May 27, 2023