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Blues' fortress - From garden of Eden to house of horrors

Author
NZ Herald Staff,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Thursday, 28 June 2018, 3:33PM
Can the Blues get a win in Jerome Kaino's final home game? Photo / Getty
Can the Blues get a win in Jerome Kaino's final home game? Photo / Getty

Do it for Jerome Kaino, do it for your supporters, just do it.

Tomorrow the Blues have their last chance at breaking their terrible home record when they play the Reds at Eden Park and the demands above may feature in coach Tana Umaga's pre-match talk.

Never before have the Blues gone through a season without winning at home. They have struggled away in recent times – in 2015, John Kirwan's final year in charge, they couldn't win a match away, a trend that was bad enough, but this latest one is far worse.

This year they have won three on the road and with their final two matches of their season away to the Hurricanes and Crusaders, that might just be their lot. Few will give them a chance against two teams who are firmly in the playoff mix and have their collective acts together.

The Blues should – must – beat the Reds to mark in appropriate fashion their veteran enforcer Kaino's final match at home, to repay their fans who have battled the notorious Auckland traffic – particularly on Fridays – to get there, and for the fact that Brad Thorn's Reds (one place above the Blues in 12th) aren't exactly setting the world alight themselves.

The Reds have been better under the former All Black lock's leadership, but have won only four matches and only one away from home (an admittedly meritorious 18-7 victory over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires). Going by previous form this year, the Reds will get their opportunities and if they stay patient, like their countrymen the Rebels did at Eden Park recently, and more on them below, they have the potential to cause the Blues serious problems.

Stephen Perofeta is starting at 10 for the Blues tomorrow. Photo / Photosport
Stephen Perofeta is starting at 10 for the Blues tomorrow. Photo / Photosport

Regrets - the Blues should have a few when this season eventually fizzles out. At home they should have done far better against a Chiefs team in near disarray with injury (lock Brodie Retallick and fullback Shaun Stevenson were late withdrawals too) in round three, and shipping 63 points against the Sharks was unforgiveable.

They struck an in-form Jaguares who coped with the wet conditions far better than they did, and they reserved perhaps their worst performance of the season for their last match at what was formerly their fortress – the 20-10 defeat to the Rebels on June 2 before the test window.

They were truly clueless, missing tackles, allowing the Rebels too much time and space, and conceding more turnovers and penalties than their opposites. About the only bright moment was the try by second-five Terrence Hepetema – dummying one-handed on his way – in his third match for the Blues.

It was appropriate that the final pass of the match from the home side sailed aimlessly and frustratingly over the deadball line, the ball given an understandably angry hack by replacement back TJ Faiane.

Can they do it? Of course, but they look a much poorer team without Sonny Bill Williams (out with a shoulder injury) and, with a re-shuffled backline which includes Rieko Ioane at No12 and Michael Collins at No13, there will be an onus on the pack to play like they haven't yet at home this season.

That must be the aim, and with Kaino playing his 137th and final match at home, he and his fellow big men surely don't need too many more reasons to front.

NZ Super Scene:

The Crusaders, the competition leaders and defending champions (54 competition points), have a bye this weekend. With a nine-point lead over their nearest rivals the Hurricanes, they cannot be overtaken this round.

The Hurricanes, fourth overall, face the 11th-placed Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday night. The Brumbies need a win to stay in the playoff mix.

The Chiefs, sixth overall, host the fifth-placed Highlanders in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday in a match set to be the game of the round.

Home discomforts – Blues' record at Eden Park this season
Round 3: Blues 21-27 Chiefs
Round 7: Blues 40-63 Sharks
Round 10: Blues 16-34 Highlanders
Round 11: Blues 13-20 Jaguares
Round 13: Blues 15-36 Hurricanes
Round 14: Blues 24-32 Crusaders
Round 16: Blues 10-20 Rebels

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