Blues' unbeaten run ends against Bulls

Departing Ali Williams shares a laugh with coach Sir John Kirwan after his last game for the Blues.
Departing Ali Williams shares a laugh with coach Sir John Kirwan after his last game for the Blues.
Marty McKenzie in action for the Blues during their season finale loss to the Chiefs.
Marty McKenzie in action for the Blues during their season finale loss to the Chiefs.
Piri Weepu gets a flying pass away during the Blues' loss to the Chiefs.
Piri Weepu gets a flying pass away during the Blues' loss to the Chiefs.
Charles Piutau chases the ball down to score for the Blues.
Charles Piutau chases the ball down to score for the Blues.
Kane Barrett leaves the field after a red card against the Chiefs.
Kane Barrett leaves the field after a red card against the Chiefs.
Francis Saili of the Blues fends off Philip van der Walt of the Cheetahs.
Francis Saili of the Blues fends off Philip van der Walt of the Cheetahs.
Steven Luatua of the Blues goes for the high ball during their match against the Cheetahs.
Steven Luatua of the Blues goes for the high ball during their match against the Cheetahs.
Francis Saili of the Blues in action during their game against the Cheetahs.
Francis Saili of the Blues in action during their game against the Cheetahs.
Frank Halai of the Blues in action during their game against the Cheetahs.
Frank Halai of the Blues in action during their game against the Cheetahs.
Jean Deysel of the Sharks continues play without his shirt during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Jean Deysel of the Sharks continues play without his shirt during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
George Moala of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
George Moala of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Chris Noakes of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Chris Noakes of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Frank Halai of the Blues goes over for a try during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Frank Halai of the Blues goes over for a try during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Steven Luatua of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Steven Luatua of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Blues captain Ali Williams and coach Sir John Kirwan discuss their disappointing loss to the Highlanders.
Blues captain Ali Williams and coach Sir John Kirwan discuss their disappointing loss to the Highlanders.
Jackson Willison of the Blues is brought down during the round 16 Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Jackson Willison of the Blues is brought down during the round 16 Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Anthony Boric of the Blues competes with Mose Tuiali'i of the Highlanders in the lineout.
Anthony Boric of the Blues competes with Mose Tuiali'i of the Highlanders in the lineout.
Frank Halai makes the hard yards for the Blues against the Highlanders.
Frank Halai makes the hard yards for the Blues against the Highlanders.
Ali Williams (centre) lays down the law to his players.
Ali Williams (centre) lays down the law to his players.
Charles Piutau makes a charge against the Brumbies.
Charles Piutau makes a charge against the Brumbies.
Rene Ranger on the charge for the Blues against the Brumbies.
Rene Ranger on the charge for the Blues against the Brumbies.
George Moala in action against the Brumbies.
George Moala in action against the Brumbies.
George Moala charges into the Crusaders defence.
George Moala charges into the Crusaders defence.
Frank Halai on the charge against the Crusaders.
Frank Halai on the charge against the Crusaders.
Culum Retallick makes a pass for the Blues against the Crusaders.
Culum Retallick makes a pass for the Blues against the Crusaders.
Piri Weepu is closely watched by opposite number Andy Ellis.
Piri Weepu is closely watched by opposite number Andy Ellis.
Francis Saili is mobbed by teammates after scoring a try during the Blues' win over the Cheetahs.
Francis Saili is mobbed by teammates after scoring a try during the Blues' win over the Cheetahs.
Luke Braid jumps over the tackle from the Rebels' Mitch Inman.
Luke Braid jumps over the tackle from the Rebels' Mitch Inman.
Frank Halai dives over for a try against the Cheetahs.
Frank Halai dives over for a try against the Cheetahs.
Steven Luatua fends off the tackle of Rebel Bryce Hegarty.
Steven Luatua fends off the tackle of Rebel Bryce Hegarty.
Rebel Scott Higginbotham looks to kick the ball ahead against Jamison Gibson-Park.
Rebel Scott Higginbotham looks to kick the ball ahead against Jamison Gibson-Park.
Steven Luatua of the Blues charges into the Stormers' Andries Bekker during their clash at North Harbour Stadium.
Steven Luatua of the Blues charges into the Stormers' Andries Bekker during their clash at North Harbour Stadium.
Bryan Habana of the Stormers is smashed by the Blues defence during their Round 12 clash.
Bryan Habana of the Stormers is smashed by the Blues defence during their Round 12 clash.
Blues second row Culum Retallick takes a breather during the Super Rugby clash with the Stormers at North Harbour Stadium.
Blues second row Culum Retallick takes a breather during the Super Rugby clash with the Stormers at North Harbour Stadium.
Kevin Mealamu hands the ball off to Piri Weepu during the Blues loss to the Reds in Queensland.
Kevin Mealamu hands the ball off to Piri Weepu during the Blues loss to the Reds in Queensland.
Rene Ranger tries to fend off the tackle of Jake Schatz.
Rene Ranger tries to fend off the tackle of Jake Schatz.
Chris Noakes gets a pass away during the loss to the Reds.
Chris Noakes gets a pass away during the loss to the Reds.
Albert Nikora is tackled by James Slipper and Rob Simmons.
Albert Nikora is tackled by James Slipper and Rob Simmons.
Piri Weepu gets a pass off as the Blues beat the Hurricanes at Eden Park.
Piri Weepu gets a pass off as the Blues beat the Hurricanes at Eden Park.
Rene Ranger, Charles Piutau and Andre Taylor clash trying to grab a high ball.
Rene Ranger, Charles Piutau and Andre Taylor clash trying to grab a high ball.
Blues captain Ali Williams has a laugh with his side on top.
Blues captain Ali Williams has a laugh with his side on top.
James Parson gets past Beauden Barrett to score for the Blues.
James Parson gets past Beauden Barrett to score for the Blues.
Anthony Boric prepares for the tackle during the Blues' win over the Highlanders.
Anthony Boric prepares for the tackle during the Blues' win over the Highlanders.
Piri Weepu celebrates scoring his second try against the Highlanders.
Piri Weepu celebrates scoring his second try against the Highlanders.
Ali Williams and Kevin Mealamu discuss a plan during the Blues' 29-18 win over the Highlanders.
Ali Williams and Kevin Mealamu discuss a plan during the Blues' 29-18 win over the Highlanders.
Former teammates Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu share a laugh on field.
Former teammates Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu share a laugh on field.
Steven Luatua dives over for a try against the Highlanders.
Steven Luatua dives over for a try against the Highlanders.
Brodie Retallick and his cousin Culum Retallick during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Brodie Retallick and his cousin Culum Retallick during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Ali Williams of the Blues wins lineout ball during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Ali Williams of the Blues wins lineout ball during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Luke Braid of the Blues charges forward during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Luke Braid of the Blues charges forward during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Rene Ranger of the Blues is tipped upside down during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Rene Ranger of the Blues is tipped upside down during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
 Jurgen Visser of the Bulls and Marty McKenzie of the Blues compete for the ball.
Jurgen Visser of the Bulls and Marty McKenzie of the Blues compete for the ball.
Francis Saili looks to pass for the Blues.
Francis Saili looks to pass for the Blues.
Charlie Faumuina on the attack for the Blues.
Charlie Faumuina on the attack for the Blues.
Liaki Moli of The Blues gets caught in a ruck during the Super Rugby game between The Blues and The Bulls.
Liaki Moli of The Blues gets caught in a ruck during the Super Rugby game between The Blues and The Bulls.
Blues fans show support for their team.
Blues fans show support for their team.
Rene Ranger breaks the line for the Blues.
Rene Ranger breaks the line for the Blues.
Ali Williams lays down the law to Chris Noakes (centre) and George Moala.
Ali Williams lays down the law to Chris Noakes (centre) and George Moala.
Luke Braid celebrates during the Blues win over the Crusaders.
Luke Braid celebrates during the Blues win over the Crusaders.
Frank Halai shows his control to touch down for a try in the Blues opening win over the Hurricanes.
Frank Halai shows his control to touch down for a try in the Blues opening win over the Hurricanes.
But dad!...Piri Weepu's daughter Keira doesn't look too happy about sharing in her fathers 100th Super Rugby game celebrations.
But dad!...Piri Weepu's daughter Keira doesn't look too happy about sharing in her fathers 100th Super Rugby game celebrations.
Blues No 8 Peter Saili breaks away during the win over the Hurricanes.
Blues No 8 Peter Saili breaks away during the win over the Hurricanes.
Francis Saili makes a break during the Blues win over the Hurricanes.
Francis Saili makes a break during the Blues win over the Hurricanes.

It was too little, too late from the Blues as they ran smack-bang into a Bulls-sized reality check at Eden Park today.

In front of 25,112 fans on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Sir John Kirwan's Blues found the big South Africans just too much to handle as they sunk to a 28-21 defeat - their first of the Super Rugby season.

A late try to Rene Ranger briefly raised the home team's hopes of a comeback victory as they closed to within four points, at 21-25, but an 80th-minute penalty to Morne Steyn sealed the Bulls' first ever victory on Eden Park.

The Bulls, with their outstanding pack denying the Blues the possession they had feasted on over the previous fortnight, were well worthy of their three tries to two victory which makes them three for three for the new season.

Both teams came into this match with their confidence high after a couple of wins, but it was the Bulls who imprinted their style and game-plan on to proceedings the better.

With No 8 Pierre Spies leading a brilliant loose forward trio and the back three of Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane and Lione Mapoe enjoying perfect conditions, the visitors dominated for long periods.

Kirwan had made six changes to his in-form side and in the end this probably hadn't done the Blues any favours as they struggled to settle into a rhythm in this match until it was too late.

The Bulls had led 15-6 at the break, wings Mapoe and Ndungane crossing for the only tries of the half.

Mapoe's came just inside the opening quarter when Ndungane did very well to retrieve a high kick, the big visiting forwards rumbled it up and the wing was put across in the left corner.

Five minutes later new Blues No 10 Baden Kerr paid dearly for a loose kick which saw the Bulls stretch out to their nine-point halftime lead.

Impressive Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann gathered the charged down ball and headed upfield. Eventually possession was shifted right, and Kirchner's flat pass put his wing one-on-one with Waisake Naholo, and that was no contest at all.

The Blues rattled off 10 straight points inside the first quarter of an hour of the second spell to lead 16-15 on the back of Kerr's third penalty and a very well-taken try by fullback Charles Piutau wide on the left.

But that just steeled the Bulls.

Three minutes later flanker Arno Botha crossed wide on the left, after another fabulous break up the middle by Ndungane, and when Morne Steyn added his second penalty soon after the South Africans led 25-16.

Halfback Jano Vermaak nearly made the game safe a dozen minutes from time but just lost the ball as he reached for the line, before Ranger raised home hopes four minutes from the end when he was put clear by Francis Saili and bumped off Kirchner for the five-pointer.

But at 21-25 in arrears the Blues needed things to fall their way over the final few minutes, which didn't happen as Steven Luatua was bundled into touch and Steyn applied the finishing touch with his boot.

The Blues now have a bye to reassess things. They hinted at their ability, but just weren't able to establish the possession platforms to give those backs of theirs the opportunities they would have liked on a sunny afternoon.

At Eden Park:

Bulls 28 (Lionel Mapoe, Akpona Ndugane, Arno Botha tries; Morne Steyn 3 pens 2 cons),

Blues 21 (Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger tries; Baden Kerr 3pens, con). Ht: 15-6.

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