Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Failure to do basics lets Brumbies take it

Fullback Charles Piutau provides a rare highlight for the Blues in a dismal outing against the Brumbies at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Fullback Charles Piutau provides a rare highlight for the Blues in a dismal outing against the Brumbies at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues' task was not complicated.

Weather warnings had been on the money and as conditions closed in on Eden Park, tactics looked straightforward. Or so it seemed to most of the 10,811 who braved conditions in the hope the Blues would regather some momentum and improve their placing in the top six.

As Mick Byrne, the Blues forward and kicking coach entered the staff box, he spoke about the elementary stuff his side had to deliver. It was simple. Hoof the ball down into the Brumbies' half because it was not a night to be playing cute rugby in your own territory.

Those basic instructions failed to find a receptive home among the Blues as they sank to a 20-13 loss against a well-organised but limited Brumbies side. The Flash Harrys lost out to the Workers and earned themselves a serious reprimand from coach John Kirwan.

If someone had been able to collect his vocal venom, it would have powered the Eden Park lights if the grid failed.

His rancor was aimed at the Blues' lack of sustained purpose and their inability to click on to their work. They were negligent.

The work of the visiting Brumbies was a strong contrast. They are not the most gifted side in the Super 15 but they deal well in the basics.

"One thing we spoke about at the Brumbies ever since I started there, is the ability to learn quicker than our opposition and there were a lot of significant things that happened in this game," coach Jake White said.They had closed out the match after fluffing similar lines against the Crusaders and Waratahs and claimed revenge against the Blues for last year's hiccup.

"There is a massive amount of learning that is happening in our changing room."

White generously suggested conditions did not favour the Blues because the wind turned on them and they suffered when they tried to chase the match.

Hard-working loose forward Luke Braid put it into stronger perspective when he said the Blues got more and more flustered as the Brumbies strangled them. The Blues got into all sorts of strife trying to play too much rugby in their own half. No wonder the displeasure was escalating among the Blues coaches.

The Blues will look to flush mistakes from their system as they head to Dunedin on Saturday.

Judge us, Kirwan implored, on the Blues' commitment and bounce-back this weekend. "Forget about the score, we'll see who wants to play this game more than the opposition. If you don't get that right, you don't win."

Asked how the Blues would rekindle or discover the right attitude, Kirwan shrugged and claimed he had no idea. But he was sure they had to if they were to return to the winner's podium. Blindside flanker and national training squad member Steven Luatua will be available after his neck injury and lock Liaki Moli has also recovered from his leg injury.

Graham Henry has been reprimanded by a Sanzar judicial committee over his criticisms of match officials this week.

- NZ Herald

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