Brumbies clinical in bruising win over Blues
The Blues will slump into the bye nursing bruised morale after a demoralising defeat stretched their away hoodoo to 11 straight losses last night.
Frustration was etched on the visitors' faces throughout. Nothing seemed to click in the 26-9 defeat to the clinical Brumbies, who rebounded from a shock loss to the Rebels last week.
A failure to win away from home now seems a definitive mental block for the Blues. On this evidence, the Hurricanes will fancy their chances in two weeks in Wellington.
After resurrecting their season with two wins at the Eden Park sanctuary, the Blues' mini revival came to a grinding halt. They were never in this match.
His dozen-long injury list should abate during next week's bye, but Blues coach Sir John Kirwan will treasure every moment to figure out how it went so wrong in the Australian capital.
The problems started with the decision to enter into a kicking dual with Brumbies halfback Nic White and fullback Jesse Mogg. The oddly conservative approach did not suit the Blues' natural attacking instincts. It backfired badly.
Kirwan's men had, after all, scored the most tries and points in the competition. Tonight, they couldn't cross the chalk once - the first time they failed to score a try against the Brumbies.
Simon Hickey's rocky match largely summed up his side's efforts.
Damaging all evening, impressive Brumbies second-five Pat McCabe twice ran through the Blues first five-eighth on the way to scoring the first of his brace.
Hickey's defensive issues could continue to cause major concern for the Blues.
While his assured goal-kicking again proved valuable and he pulled off one neatly placed grubber, Hickey's general play also struggled. He miscued attempted clearing kicks and passes went to ground, instead of finding the man. This was a steep learning curve for the 20-year-old rookie.
The Blues seemed stifled by the wet, drizzly conditions. Their tactics were clear - play the game at the opposition's end of the field. Only, their kicking game didn't come to the party.
Australian referee Rohan Hoffman didn't help proceedings, refusing to reward what appeared to be a dominant Blues scrum. The visitors later took matters into their own hands, securing a rare tighthead, though Steven Luatua appeared to battle in the unfamiliar role at No 8.
On the back of some nicely placed nudges, the locals won almost every territorial battle with Charles Piutau and Hickey struggling to find distance and accuracy.
That put the Blues under constant pressure. They couldn't get out of their half or out of defensive mode and were forced to defend for long periods. They were fortunate to trail just 13-6, with Hickey slotting a vital penalty on halftime.
But the suffocation continued deep into the secondhalf.
The Blues have now suffered four losses from seven games and are right back amongst the pack.
Kirwan said this week if his men wanted to be considered contenders they needed to win away from home.
That statement couldn't be more pertinent after last night's underwhelming result.
BRUMBIES 26 (Pat McCabe 2, Robbie Coleman tries; Nic White con, White 2 pens, Christian Leali'ifano pens)
BLUES 9 (Simon Hickey 3 pens).