Hopeless Blues slump to new low

JON CARDINELLI watched the Hurricanes beat the Blues 35-19 to hand the Aucklanders their seventh successive defeat.

The Blues remain rooted to the foot of the Super Rugby table, and are now big favourites to win the New Zealand conference wooden spoon.

They haven’t beaten another Kiwi franchise this season, and Friday’s defeat marked their second loss to the Hurricanes in 2012. The Hurricanes are currently ranked fourth in the New Zealand conference, but are now a whopping 18 log points clear of the last-placed Blues.

These are desperate times, and the desperation of this hapless Blues outfit was apparent from the outset of Friday’s match in Wellington.

It was clear that the plan was to play a more structured game, but the Hurricanes had come to the contest with the intent to spoil and niggle, and these tactics worked superbly. It was only a matter of time before the Blues imploded.

The Hurricanes were guilty of poor ball protection at times, but their tactics to kick the ball into open spaces and pressure the Blues back three with high-hanging kicks certainly paid dividends.

It was a well-weighted cross kick by Beauden Barrett that provided them with their first scoring opportunity, but special mention should go to Cory Jane for the finish. Jane employed his fantastic aerial skills to disrupt George Moala so that the Blues winger lost possession, and the ever-alert Conrad Smith pounced on the loose ball to score.

The Hurricanes were typically erratic at the breakdown, and for a while Piri Weepu kept the Blues in touch with his accurate goal-kicking boot. At one stage the scoreline was 12-8 in the visitors’ favour, and they looked set to end the half with the lead.

But their inability to finish scoring opportunities cost them dearly. Chris Lowrey was held up when he crashed over the tryline, and further ventures into the Hurricanes 22 ended in frustration with the Blues spilling the ball forward.

It was another Blues error that sparked the Hurricanes’ second try, with TJ Perenara swooping on a bouncing ball and finding the omnipresent Jane. Jane in turn fed Andre Taylor, who raced away for his eighth try of the season.

The Blues’ effort really started to flag in the last 30 minutes, and a sublime exhibition of handling skills allowed Julian Savea to score the decisive try. From that point, the Blues were chasing the game, and without the necessary dominance up front or the all-round leadership and decisiveness, they had no chance of coming back.

A bonus-point try was added by Perenara late in the piece, and Jason Eaton scored the hosts’ fifth after a wild pass by Blues fullback Hadleigh Parkes dropped right in front of him. It was an embarrassing end for a Blues team that has already had to deal with its fair share of humiliation.

They managed to avoid the embarrassment of not scoring a try, as Benson Stanley’s late five-pointer added some respectability to the scoreline. Having said that, there’s not getting around the fact that a 16-point defeat to a rebuilding Hurricanes team is a damning indictment.

This Blues side is in disarray, and while it may be too late to avoid the Kiwi conference wooden spoon, they will now be playing for pride. They will be lucky to to avoid a last-placed finish on the overall log.