Bumbling Blues fail to play to bad conditions
LIAM NAPIER AT EDEN PARK
Wet weather rugby doesn't suit the Blues. At this rate it could be a long winter.
The Blues' execution mirrored the ugly climate at Eden Park as the bumbling Blues were dealt a crippling blow, losing 20-13 to the Brumbies.
After copping a reality check in Christchurch last week the Blues desperately needed to dismiss Jake White's stuttering men, who arrived on the back of two crucial losses.
They couldn't, and from here Sir John Kirwan's rebuilding side will battle to make the playoffs. On this evidence they are well off the pace of the top contenders.
Earlier this year the Blues were at their best when the lethal back-three ignited the attack. All well and good when the sun is out and surface is dry but in the last two weeks, against the Crusaders and Brumbies, the Blues have been exposed up-front.
Laying the platform is fundamental and, in this case study, that just hasn't happened recently.
The Blues' tactics were all wrong. From sloppy slap down lineout delivery to cute grubbers inside their own danger area, the Blues did not help themselves.
Maybe next time they'll consider warming up outside to acclimatise to the challenging conditions instead of hibernating in the warm sheds. It sure worked for the Brumbies. Their simplistic game-plan was exactly what was required.
With their forward pack failing to gain ascendancy at the breakdown, the set-piece disintegrating and first five-eighth Chris Noakes not owning the territory battle, this time the Blues running game could not bail them out of trouble.
Camped in their red zone repeated mistakes became costly. George Moala, Peter Saili and Piri Weepu were all guilty of gifting the visitors ample opportunities. But they were not alone. If handling errors weren't frustrating Kirwan enough in a match that had "must-win" written all over it, he would have been seething at the lack of discipline that allowed the Brumbies to easily come away with points though Christian Lealiifano's boot. The second-five slotted 15 points.
Footage showed Kirwan lambasting his players, screaming instructions and waving his arms animatedly at his men in the changing rooms at half-time. For good reason, too. This was the Blues' worst 40 minutes of the season. Although they were better in the second spell they needed to be much better than this.
Other than industrious openside flanker Luke Braid the Blues were devoid of penetration. With Steven Luatua missing through injury there was minimal forward punch. The Brumbies defence could re-gather all too easily.
After 54 long minutes, it took a rare snipe from Weepu to provide the spark. Rene Ranger, as he has done so often this season, was on hand to collect the off-load and casually beat four defenders on his way to the line.
That appeared to kick start the Blues, for a short time anyway. Finally they attempted to play at the right end of the field. Baden Kerr made a difference from the bench with his powerful punt releasing pressure and Charles Piutau did his best to pull off a late escape, but it wasn't enough.
At least Kirwan and co can look forward to the Highlanders in Dunedin next week right?
There is some serious regrouping needed in Auckland before then.
Brumbies Nicholas White try, Christian Lealiifano pen 5; Blues Rene Ranger try, Chris Noakes pen, con, Baden Kerr pen
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