Bumbling Blues hit new low

Melani Nanai of the Blues defends in the try line against Julian Savea of the Hurricanes. Photo:...
Melani Nanai of the Blues defends in the try line against Julian Savea of the Hurricanes. Photo: Getty Images
The Blues are out of ideas and, thankfully, nearly out of time this season. The two things that may save them from a final humiliation against the Crusaders next weekend are the southerners' playoff plans and bad Christchurch weather but even they may not be enough.

What a miserable way for loose forward Jerome Kaino to finish at the Blues and what a comparison with the way the Crusaders responded to the milestone celebrated by his former All Black mate and opponent next weekend, Wyatt Crockett.

The Blues, again wearing #116 on the front of their jerseys in their 42-24 thrashing at the hands of the Hurricanes in Wellington in tribute to Kaino's number at the franchise (he was the 116th player to represent the Blues, Sione Havili, number 288, is the latest), were clueless in the capital.

The Crusaders, meanwhile, marked Crockett's 200th game for the franchise with a clinical 45-22 victory over the Highlanders. Once again they looked well-drilled and motivated. They had a plan which they executed with precision. They were everything the Blues weren't.

Despite plenty of opportunities, the Blues didn't appear likely to cross the Hurricanes' try-line in the first half until Rieko Ioane took matters into his own hands and got there through pure speed and determination.

Ioane scored another after halftime, but his performance was blighted a little by the defensive issues he had in trying to contain Ngani Laumape. The Blues No12 is the best left wing in the world but a New Zealand Super Rugby derby match is no place to be learning the defensive intricacies of the midfield and he struggled here, but he wasn't the only one.

Augustine Pulu of the Blues is tackled by Jordie Barrett. Photo: Getty Images
Augustine Pulu of the Blues is tackled by Jordie Barrett. Photo: Getty Images
The Blues made 79 tackles but missed 20. The far busier but more accurate Hurricanes made 144 and missed 26.
That is one side of the story. The other is the Blues' disorganisation on attack. It's not that they don't have the players to do the job, but that they don't appear to be equipped to do them properly.

I wrote before the round three match against the Chiefs at Eden Park in early March that if the Blues couldn't beat a team wracked by injury that they probably wouldn't win a derby match this season, and, barring an enormous upset next Saturday, that prediction will be right.

That's not a brag, just an assertion that none of this catalogue of failure is a surprise to most people with even the remotest interest in a once great franchise.

Results-wise, it has been a disastrous season for the Blues and their coach Tana Umaga, who improved them initially by getting them to play with more structure and discipline, but who now must be wondering where their next win will come from. In his first two seasons in charge they finished 11th and ninth. This season, with only one win at home, they will probably finish 14th, and definitely no better than 13th.

They need something new, and therefore Leon MacDonald's arrival cannot come quickly enough. MacDonald, a former All Black and Crusaders fullback and a former Crusaders assistant coach, will bring organisation and clarity to a backline which is crying out for it.

MacDonald will bring the confidence of success and that is a quality missing from the Blues for far too long. At the very least he'll be a new voice.

Add a Comment