Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Can't tackle, can't catch, can't score

Ma'a Nonu leaves the field after Friday's defeat to the Reds. Injury could rule him out of this week's match against the Hurricanes in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images
Ma'a Nonu leaves the field after Friday's defeat to the Reds. Injury could rule him out of this week's match against the Hurricanes in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues' continuing ineptitude generates memories of observations from acerbic English journalist Martin Johnson.

He once wrote his limp national cricket side had only three problems.

"They can't bowl, they can't bat and they can't field," he diagnosed.

Twenty-five years on from that summary, you'd need to widen the numerical categories to house the Blues' rap sheet after their latest evening of Super 15 incompetence.

After glimpses of promise against the Sharks and Highlanders, they sank to a new low in their 11-23 loss to the Reds on Friday.

Coach Pat Lam has promised a wide-ranging inquest after gameplan orders were ignored. Mind you, there have been promises about many things this season while the Blues' results show one victory and eight defeats.

That equals the franchise's worst losing record - in Lam's opening year coaching in 2009 - with seven games still left on their itinerary.

As the long-suffering 12,111 crowd eased away from the latest nonsense at Eden Park, they gathered in groups to debate all sorts of theories for the mess.

One wise man suggested their variety of fitness levels was the problem, another said leadership, the next the lack of scouting at club play. And so on.

At the post-match conference, Lam's annoyance was bristling.

"We played in the wrong areas of the field and put pressure on ourselves," he said. "Tactically it was poor. Trying to play rugby in our half when it has been bucketing down was pretty much suicide.

"It was certainly not part of the plan and we have got to address that real fast this week because it is fair to say I was not happy at halftime.

"Everyone knows wet-weather rugby is a simple game. You get down their end, you look good and rugby is easier."

Lam mentioned a lack of concentration, missed tackles and poor positional play for the early rot.

Add repeated lineout woes, lack of breakdown numbers, backline mishaps and you are starting to get the picture of a misshapen, rudderless group.

Lam did not want to apportion blame before he watched replays and talked to players and his only offer of redress was to go back to the drawing board.

"It will be a pretty intense review around that tactically because on the field things that we talked about and trained were not the same things."

Hours before the game, New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said his organisation had a number of people who were in daily contact and supporting the Blues.

It was not an opportune time to change the Blues' coach, he repeated.

Was he satisfied then with the Blues' efforts this season?

"That is another question," Tew replied. "As I said before, no one is happy with their results but we are not intending to change the coach."

Tew tried to suggest the Blues' failings might be the result of trying too hard. It would not help the Blues if the NZRU made any public critiques. Those conversations and advice would be given in private.

After nine games and a solitary win against the Bulls, the only evidence the Blues are connected to the Super 15 series comes with their scrums and weekly laundered gear.

They have likely lost Rudi Wulf to a repeat right shoulder injury while Ma'a Nonu's corked thigh might stall his appearance against his former Hurricanes franchise in Wellington on Friday.



full scoring commentary here


- NZ Herald

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