Blues get second win of the season

Akira Ioane runs with the ball during during the Super Rugby match between the Sunwolves and the...
Akira Ioane runs with the ball during during the Super Rugby match between the Sunwolves and the Blues at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground in Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images
The big news out of Tokyo is that the Blues won. The importance of that trumps everything else – such as how they only just won, never looked comfortable and played too much average rugby.

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The Blues looked like the 14th placed team which is not the disaster it sounds as the real nub of their mission was to not look like the 15th placed team.

So in that regard job done. They got the points, all five of them, and unlike last year when they played in Japan, they avoided humiliation.

This is progress, albeit not much. But the Blues will take whatever they can get at the moment.

A scrappy win, a brilliant win, a lucky win…they won't care as long as they win. That seemed to be their attitude in Tokyo.

They never found any kind of rhythm or dominance. It was a performance that betrayed their low level of confidence and inability to settle into a game early, take control of it and never look back.

They were so loose in the first half it felt worryingly like they were going to be a mess again. Patrick Tuipulotu was yellow carded for a needless shoulder charge and the Sunwolves were pouring through midfield holes.

They went 10-3 up and if they had managed to score one more try in that same period of momentum, it looked like the Blues may have folded earlier and been in real trouble.
But the Sunwolves didn't have the weaponry or composure and half an hour through the game, the Blues had finally woken up.

They didn't however start dominating the game until midway through the second half when, as he's done all year, Akira Ioane sparked them back into life with a bruising try-scoring run down the left.

That put the Blues ahead and once they had that security on the scoreboard, they slowly ground the Sunwolves down and added two more tries.

It wasn't impressive or rampant. It wasn't a signal they have turned a corner or should be taken any more seriously when they return to New Zealand.

But the way they stuck at it and finally broke the Sunwolves was at least something for them to cherish. That was a sign of their tenacity and perseverance may not be much, but it is something and it won't paper over all of the Blues' cracks, but it will hide some of them.

And there are quite a few cracks. Just like last week, the Blues looked wobbly in the scrum. Which is a worry because it is one thing to be shoved around by the Chiefs another again to be struggling so much against the Sunwolves.

They still aren't kicking and chasing well and they didn't produce the speed of recycled ball they need to ignite their backs. That ruthless edge to knock defenders out the way wasn't there.

It's possible to get away with those weaknesses against the Sunwolves but the Blues will struggle against everyone else unless they become more dynamic and clinical in that tackled ball area.

And they need more attacking options than just the Ioane brothers. Again it was Rieko and Akira – especially the latter – who was responsible for much of the Blues best ball carrying and a few others need to be working that bit harder to match his influence.

But, this is all getting away from the win and the win is all that matters.

Blues 24 (J. Hyland (2), A. Ioane, D. Papali'i tries; S. Perofeta 2 cons)
Sunwolves 10 (T. Lafaele try; H. Parker con; Y. Tamura pen)

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