Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Wobbly Blues left little wriggle room

Piri Weepu talking to Stormers wing Bryan Habana. Photo / Getty Images
Piri Weepu talking to Stormers wing Bryan Habana. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues' error rate was unacceptable for a side hoping to challenge for the Super 15 crown.

They lost five of their lineout throws, fell to referee Glenn Jackson's scrum rulings, conceded 16 turnovers and missed 10 tackles so it was hardly surprising they lost to the Stormers.

Somehow, late in the Cape Town contest, the Blues were just a converted try behind their hosts before they conceded a Joe Pietersen penalty and sank to a 27-17 defeat.

"Ill discipline and errors cost us again," coach Pat Lam lamented about the abortive late rally.

He was perplexed by a number of the breakdown and scrum penalties the Blues conceded and wondered how or why Jackson's decisions were different from Steve Walsh's rulings in their previous match.

While that left Lam scratching his head, he conceded the Blues' set-piece work had the wobbles and had contributed to some of their own demise.

Defeat has left the Blues with a solitary win from four outings this year and a great deal of work to haul in their conference colleagues to claim a playoffs berth.

There is little wriggle room. Last season the Blues finished runner-up in their conference with five defeats and a draw.

The Blues have been dealt some harsh injury cards but that scenario faces each side in such a rugged series. However, the side which heard Jackson's full-time whistle was an unlikely group, including two wings plucked from the wider training group.

Ponder Lachie Munro, Ben Lam, Benson Stanley, Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Chris Lowrey, Peter Saili, Daniel Braid, Filo Paulo, Brad Mika, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau - that is a combination for a future pub quiz question.

Captain Keven Mealamu disappeared at the interval with a calf strain, Piri Weepu a few minutes later after negligible impact, Ali Williams with half an hour to run.

Weepu was "working up to speed", according to Lam, while Williams was battling a few injuries.

It is all very strange just like some of the unusual tactical punts seen from Ma'a Nonu and Gareth Anscombe. Lam put that down to ineffective execution, he felt the space was available to try the tactic.

Opensider Daniel Braid was bemused by his side's lack of early spark. There were chances to disrupt the Stormers but they had been outduelled.

"Their defence was good and they dominated us physically and got in behind the advantage line," he said.

The Blues were not out of the race for the playoffs but the latest defeat meant they were up against it.

"We have to improve, we can't lose many more," he said.

The Blues were 3-17 adrift at halftime after conceding a try to Bryan Habana when he claimed the ball as new wing Ben Lam let it bounce hoping it would go into touch.

Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers scored after the break when he busted through Luke Braid's tackle far too easily to push his side's advantage out even further.

Stanley and Faumuina scored in a golden seven-minute patch for the Blues, but that rally was not long or concerted enough to recover the early damage.

Test loosehead prop Tony Woodcock is likely to be available for the side's next match with the Hurricanes on Friday at Eden Park but not many of the other eight squad members who were out through injury, suspension or family reasons.

There will be concerns about Mealamu who has a history of calf muscle injuries and is the latest addition to the medical worry list while Luke Braid has been cited for striking an opponent with his elbow and forearm.

SUPER 15 TABLE




- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 28 Dec 2014 09:50:10 Processing Time: 397ms