Ugly win but Blues beat Cheetahs at Eden

20:39, Mar 22 2014
2014 Blues season
Tom Donnelly on the charge against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
2014 Blues season
Chris Noakes of the Blues, centre, is hit hard by Brad Thorn, left.
2014 Blues season
A bloodied Peter Saili shows his battle scars from the clash with the Highlanders.
2014 Blues season
Benji Marshall, right, made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in Dunedin. Here he is grappling for the ball with Highlander Richard Buckman.
Keven Mealamu and Benji Marshall
Keven Mealamu congratulates Benji Marshall after the Blues' dominant victory over the Crusaders.
Simon Hickey
Super Rugby rookie Simon Hickey kicks the ball clear.
Frank Halai
Blues wing Frank Halai is tackled by Crusaders prop Tim Perry.
George Moala
George Moala breaks through the Crusaders defence.
Steven Luatua
Steven Luatua is shown a yellow card by referee Garrett Williamson.
Blues 2014 season
Tom Donnelly of the Blues, far right, fires out a pass under pressure from the Bulls' chasers.
Blues 2014 season
James Parsons of the Blues, centre, leads a team talk during his side's clash with the Bulls in South Africa.
Blues 2014 season
Blues halfback Piri Weepu goes searching for the ball against the Bulls.
Piri Weepu of the Blues
Blues lock Liaki Moli in action against the Bulls.
Frank Halai
Blues wing Frank Halai is pulled down short of the try line.
George Moala
George Moala flings a pass back in-field as he's grabbed by the ankle.
Simon Hickey
Substitute first-five Simon Hickey gets a Blues attacking move started.
Luke Braid
Luke Braid crashes into a Lions player in Johannesburg.
Charles Piutau
Charles Piutau drags a Lions player with him, as Benji Marshall and Chris Noakes support.
2014 Blues season
Charles Piutau makes a break for the Blues against the Highlanders at Eden Park.
2014 Blues season
Benji Marshall of the Blues takes on the Highlanders defence.
2014 Blues season
Young Blues first five Simon Hickey lines up a kick at goal against the Highlanders at Eden Park.
2014 Blues season
Former All Black Jerome Kaino made a winning return to the Blues against the Highlanders.
2014 Blues season
Joe Tomane of the Brumbies tackles Blues wing Charles Piutau as the teams square off in Canberra.
2014 Blues season
Blues flanker Steven Luatua tries to get to grips with the Brumbies' Pat McCabe.
2014 Blues season
Blues halfback Bryn Hall spins a lovely pass from a ruck during his team's clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.
2014 Blues season
Benji Marshall has a cut at the Brumbies defence in Canberra.
2014 Blues season
Bryn Hall of the Blues runs the ball during their round ten match against the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
George Moala of the Blues is tackled by Dane Coles of the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
Chris Noakes of the Blues is tackled by Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
Jerome Kaino of the Blues is tackled by Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
Jerome Kaino of the Blues charges forward during their match against the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Peter Saili of the Blues offloads the ball in the tackle of Michael Hooper of the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Luke Braid of the Blues is tackled by Dave Dennis of the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Piri Weepu of the Blues during their match against the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Flanker Jerome Kaino looks a beaten man during the Blues' loss to the Chiefs in New Plymouth.
2014 Blues season
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan gives his side some instruction in New Plymouth.
2014 Blues season
Blues centre Ma'a Nonu spins a pass out under pressure from the Chiefs' Bundee Aki.
2014 Blues season
Blues winger Frank Halai makes a charge against the Chiefs at Yarrow Stadium.
Blues 2014 season
Lolagi Visinia of the Blues charges at the Reds defence at Eden Park.
Blues 2014 season
Blues centre George Moala sends Kiwi-born Reds playmaker Quade Cooper crashing to the ground.
Blues 2014 season
Blues No 10 Simon Hickey is tackled by the Reds' Jake Schatz during their teams' clash at Eden Park in Auckland.
2014 Blues season
Ihaia West of the Blues is congratulated by teammate Steven Luatua after scoring a try against the Reds at Eden Park.
Ma'a Nonu
Ma'a Nonu (left) celebrates with team mate George Moala after a try during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Force and the Blues at nib Stadium in Perth.
Peter Saili
Peter Saili of the Blues is tackled during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Force.
Ma'a Nonu
Blues second-five Ma'a Nonu is tackled during his side's win over the Force in Perth.
Dane Haylett-Petty
Dane Haylett-Petty of the Force is smashed by the Blues defence during a Super Rugby meeting between the two sides in round 17.
Steven Luatua
Steven Luatua of the Blues is tackled during his side's win over the Force in Perth.
Ma'a Nonu
Blues star Ma'a Nonu is tackled by Dan Carter of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Andy Ellis
Andy Ellis, centre, of the Crusaders is tackled by Blues players Tony Woodcock (left) and Luke Braid (right) during his side's win in Christchurch.
Dominic Bird
Crusaders lock Dominic Bird powers through a number of would-be Blues defenders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Nemani Nadolo
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try against the Blues in round 18.
Dan Carter
Crusaders second-five Dan Carter is tackled by All Blacks team-mate and Blues prop Tony Woodcock.
Jerome Kaino
Jerome Kaino of the Blues is tackled by Andy Ellis of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Jerome Kaino
Jerome Kaino bruising as ever in the Blues' round 19 Super Rugby match against the Chiefs.
Jerome Kaino
Keven Mealamu runs onto the pitch ahead of the Blues' final match of the Super Rugby season.
Jerome Kaino
Charles Piutau on a spirited run in the Blues' round 19 Super Rugby match against the Chiefs.
Jerome Kaino
Blues players Francis Saili, Ma'a Nonu, Bryn Hall, Jerome Kaino and Sam Prattley look dejected after losing their last game of the Super Rugby season.
Jerome Kaino
Blues fans felt dejected too.

As challenging as the trip back from South Africa can be, the Blues need drastic improvements if they are to be considered genuine contenders.

Not banking a win at Eden Park tonight, against this year's worst team, the Cheetahs, would have been akin to missing a two-inch putt.

Still, the Blues made their ugly 40-30 bonus point win seem exceedingly difficult. They will breathe a sigh of relief after scraping to improve their now 2-3 record. 

blues standard
GOTCHYA: Hennie Daniller of the Cheetahs is caught by Charles Piutau and George Moala of the Blues.

The Cheetahs are a rabble - a side that has now finished a four-match losing tour and are desperate to return home. They have sharp attacking instincts and not much else, certainly no substance on defence.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan pointed to last week's long haul journey home from the Republic, where they lost both matches, as excuses for his side's struggles to put together any fluid attacking movements; having their defence easily breached to concede three tries and not putting away the visitors. 

His sentiments - labeling his side's effort a "great 80-minute performance" - were hard to buy into.  

Advertisement

blues
GOTCHYA: Hennie Daniller of the Cheetahs is caught by Charles Piutau and George Moala of the Blues.

"It's been a tough week," Kirwan said. "It was a must-win for us and we managed to get five points. Don't underestimate how tough it is to fly back from South Africa. 

"This is a real difficult game, physically. I was really pleased with the effort."

While the victory boosts the Blues' points tally, their form won't scare next week's opponents, the Highlanders. 

On this evidence the southerners will fancy their chances, even.

The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino. The 13,500 crowd were on their feet in the 53rd minute as the two star recruits came on for their first, respective, appearances of the season. But that also summed up the frustrating nature of the Blues' performance.

Rookie first five-eighth Simon Hickey again stepped up to land 20-points (eight-from-nine), which, ultimately, saved his side from what could have been an embarrassing defeat.

The consistent, fundamental mistakes that have plagued the Blues' efforts were all-too-frequent, though pedantic Argentine referee Francisco Pastrana didn't help the stop-start affair.

In what is becoming a major concern for two All Blacks props - Charlie Faumuina and Tony Woodcock - the Blues scrum was again shunted around, too. 

Liaki Moli, Tevita Li and Jackson Willison, who otherwise had some nice touches, were also all guilty of making unforced handling errors in the scrappy firsthalf.

Had it not been for Steven Luatua's strike from a line-out drive the Blues would have been chasing the game early. After some indifferent form, the All Blacks flanker stepped up with his best outing of the season.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske questioned the decision to yellow card flanker Boom Prinsloo and strongly disagreed with a very debatable try awarded to Blues centre George Moala. Referee Pastrana overruled TMO Glenn Newman, who strongly suggested a double movement had been committed.

 "If you want to overrule the TMO then it has to be clear and obvious," Drotske said. "If that wasn't a double movement then I don't understand the rule."

That call set-up a 30-16 half-time lead for Kirwan's men, but their secondhalf efforts were no better than the first. Their midfield defence was exposed by the speed of Cheetahs wingers Hennie Daniller and Cornal Hendricks.

Benji Marshall came on for the final 15-minutes at fullback, but his impact was near-nonexistent as the Blues were forced to defend their lead, rather than show any kind of ruthless streak.

Kirwan was thankful to break a two-match losing run. But, privately at least, he will realise his team must be much better to compete with the Highlanders. Or anyone else, for that matter.

"Next week we definitely have to raise our level," he said. "They skunked us down there last time."

Blues 40 (Steven Luatua, George Moala, Tevita Li, Tony Woodcock tries Simon Hickey pen 3, con 4) Cheetahs 30 (Boom Prinsloo, Cornal Hendricks, Hennie Daniller tries Johan Goosen pen 2, con, Elgar Watts pen, con 2). HT: 30-16 

RELIVE THE ACTION

Stuff