'Blues have been worse as the season has gone on': Fans left to question what went wrong as realisation sets in that this isn't their year
Sitting five competition points behind the second-place Chiefs, even a bonus point win won’t propel the Blues into the final as the tiebreaker will fall the way of the Chiefs who have won more games.
After their resurgent season in 2020, the Blues season started hot with wins away over the Hurricanes and at home over the Highlanders, but faded away after losing their crunch match against the Crusaders at home at Eden Park.
Since that loss, the Blues are 1-3 with only a lone win over the last-placed Hurricanes. They fell to the Chiefs in Hamilton when Damian McKenzie scored an 80th minute game-winning try, lost to the Highlanders away and now were comfortably beaten by the Crusaders.
This afternoon’s loss will be the final nail in the coffin but recent form suggested that this would be the case.
The Blues will review what resulted in a tryless performance under the stewardship of the new halves pairing Jonathan Ruru and Harry Plummer, who failed to really ignite the likes of Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane out wide.
The 9-10 combination were left clutching by Crusaders fullback Will Jordan who beat both of them, among five other Blues’ defenders, on the way to his first try.
Otere Black, who has been the primary game driver for the Blues since last season, was injected late into the game along with reserve halfback Finlay Christie to no avail.
Also coming off the bench was Akira Ioane, who offered the Blues a spark having a hand in a number of breaks that weren’t finished off.
Fans were left to watch the Blues try hard but come up with a paltry two penalty goals, leaving many to question what had happened to the side that started the season.
One fan wrote ‘since the Blues lost the Crusaders at Eden park, it just hasn’t been the same from these boys’, another questioned if the Blues were once again ‘the worst team in New Zealand’.
Another said ‘this is the same stuff from two years ago’ and that ‘today’s 9 through to 13 were absolutely average’.
With everything to play for in Christchurch, it seems puzzling that the first choice 10 was left on the bench, the best halfback Sam Nock was left completely out of the 23, and the damaging running of Akira Ioane wasn’t preferred in the starting side.
Particularly with the loss of captain Patrick Tuipulotu, the Blues didn’t make sure they had the most experience possible on the pitch.
The Blues’ best starter was undoubtedly Dalton Papalii, who was forced from the field with around ten minutes to go with an injury after winning three breakdown turnovers, 10 tackles and six carries. The co-captain was everywhere in trying to keep the scoreboard acceptable.
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