Ant Strachan: Why the Blues never seem to learn

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Saturday, 11 May 2019, 4:31PM
The Blues lost against the Hurricanes last night. (Photo / Getty)
The Blues lost against the Hurricanes last night. (Photo / Getty)

The Blues have suffered more New Zealand derby heartbreak, this time at the hands of the Hurricanes, the visitors holding on in a close, often messy and sometimes spiteful match at Eden Park.

The Hurricanes were just that bit more clinical when it mattered, scoring three tries to two – two of which came against the run of play – and while the Blues pressed hard, they couldn't get the breakthroughs they needed and their poor record against the men from the capital continues. They last beat them in 2014.

The Hurricanes' march to the playoffs also continues and they look good to hold on to that second spot at least, while the Blues drift further off the pace. This was their fourth loss in a row – their last win coming on April 6 against the Waratahs at Eden Park.

"I felt the team played really well tonight," coach Leon MacDonald said. "We created plenty and obviously we couldn't seem to push the ball down over the line. It's frustrating. The game was won and lost on little moments – the little intercept there when we were hot on attack when a dummy would have allowed us to score."

Midfielder Ma'a Nonu got seriously close in the first half, and replacement lock Scott Scrafton was over but lost the ball on the line after the break. Several mauls were held up over the line by the Hurricanes; the Blues just couldn't buy a trick.

But while some of their execution and decision making was lacking again, their attitude wasn't.

In the first half they lost halfback Sam Nock to a hand injury and first-five Harry Plummer and lock Josh Goodhue to head injuries and played with real bravery – most notably replacement first-five Otere Black - and with the Hurricanes determined to prove their playoffs credentials it all added up to an occasion which lacked flow but not brutality.

Throughout it all TJ Perenara was in referee Nick Bryant's ears – to the dismay of Blues skipper Blake Gibson and eventually the official himself – but the Hurricanes captain would have the last laugh after watching as tighthead prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen was sinbinned in the second half for repeated scrum offences as the visitors repelled wave after wave of pressure.

"We dug deep, particularly with the penalty count," Beauden Barrett said. "Obviously there was a yellow card so we had to dig deep which we actually enjoyed. I think it shows a bit of character. We'll take a lot from it even though it wasn't the tidiest of performances."
With Perenara's men taking a two-point lead into the final 15 minutes after the Blues scored their second try, a remarkable one in the corner by loose forward Dalton Papalii, the contest was separated by a piece of individual brilliance by first-five Barrett, who intercepted an Augustine Pulu pass and ran in from 50m.

It was typical of the match; the Blues working their way into position – and often over the line, without success – and the Hurricanes striking from long range with apparent ease.

Wing Ben Lam had opened their scoring with a run through four defenders from 45m out and Jordie Barrett added another after sustained pressure.

The Blues' scrum was vastly improved – in fact it was dominant after being pushed around and punished by the officials in Canberra - and their big forwards carried the ball well. Few were better initially than Patrick Tuipulotu, who broke through two would-be tacklers and offloaded in the third for halfback Nock to score his first Super Rugby try.
The Blues' near constant pressure after the break would have given their coach Leon MacDonald real hope, but while they succeeded in getting Toomaga-Allen yellow carded, their only reward was Papalii's unconverted try.

As they set about scoring another, Beauden Barrett pounced, his little brother Jordie then calmly kicking a penalty to seal it. It was the story of the match, but it took grit for the Hurricanes to hold on, with loose forward Ardie Savea once again to the fore, although Papalii deserves plaudits too.

Hurricanes 22 (Ben Lam, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett tries; Beauden Barrett 2 cons, Jordie Barrett pen)

Blues 12 (Sam Nock, Dalton Papalii tries; Harry Plummer con)

Halftime: 14-7

 

Radio Sport Weekender

Radio Sport Weekender

9AM - 12PM