Kirwan accepts the game's up for Blues
John Kirwan accepts the Blues' chances of making the Super Rugby finals are so remote that he is already talking about playing just for pride next week.
Tonight's 21-13 loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch tonight leaves the Blues stranded on 36 points and even if they thump the Chiefs in Auckland next weekend the chances of them qualifying for a top-six playoff spot would require a miracle.
Now, Kirwan says, the Blues must concentrate on keeping their heads high and be prepared to have a dig at Eden Park against the Chiefs, who will be desperate for a victory to retain their chances of making the playoffs so they can defend their title.
Being unable to salvage a losing bonus point for staying within seven points of the Crusaders leaves the Blues stranded well outside the top six and they would have to beat the Chiefs by a massive margin and hope a raft of results swing their way to qualify.
"Pride,'' Kirwan said when asked if he felt the Blues still had something to play for.
"We needed that point tonight to completely stay alive but next week we just have to get out and play with a bit of pride.''
Kirwan must have hoped his side could win in Christchurch for the first time since 2004 when they led 13-11 inside the final quarter but when Dan Carter set-up Nemani Nadolo's second try with a tricky pass off the deck, and then kicked the conversion, the Crusaders found the energy to kick up another gear.
"We're disappointed. I think we came right later in the season but we just couldn't finish it off tonight,'' Kirwan added.
"At this level it's about a bit more intelligence and a bit better kicking plan. I thought tonight we could have kicked a little bit better and put them under pressure. In situations like this we just need our young guys to learn that there's moments when we can hang on to it and moments when we can put pressure on with the boot.''
This win should be enough to guarantee the Crusaders a place in the playoffs once again.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder had good reason to single out replacement lock Jimmy Tupou, who produced a cracker when called in at late notice to replace Sam Whitelock because he had a calf twinge, but instead thrust the plaudits on his whole forward pack.
Tupou, along with fellow second rower Dominic Bird and loose forwards Kieran Read, Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua, never refrained from entering the physical exchanges in the rucks.
No-one was better for the Blues than lock Patrick Tuitupou and their skipper Luke Braid never stopped having a dig but ultimately they were undone by the powerful finishing of Nadolo, Carter's class and the Crusaders' forwards' resolve not to quit the fight.
Blackadder said Colin Slade, who left the field after attempting to tackle Ma'a Nonu, was chipper in the changing sheds after the match but he will be monitored ahead of the final round-robin match against the Highlanders.
Openside flanker Richie McCaw, who has missed the last two matches because of a fractured rib, has indicated he might be fit to face the Highlanders at AMI Stadium.