Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: When will the Blues win again?

The Blues have a tough assignment in the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night as they seek just their second win of the season. Photo / Getty Images
The Blues have a tough assignment in the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night as they seek just their second win of the season. Photo / Getty Images

Having lost eight matches from nine, with their latest poor performance coming against the Reds at Eden Park, it is hard to see where the next victory will come for the Blues.

They have a tough assignment in the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night. Although Mark Hammett's men have slipped after a promising start to lose consecutive matches against the Crusaders and Chiefs, they will fancy their chances against Pat Lam's mob, particularly because they have built their successes this season around working as a team.

This is perhaps the main failing of the Blues. Not only are they seemingly refusing to listen to their coaches' instructions - their run-everything mindset in the rain at Eden Park on Friday night allowed the Reds to gain an easy foothold in the match and particularly angered Lam and Co - but they are playing as individuals.

An interesting statistic from their only victory of the season - against the Bulls in Pretoria - is that Gareth Anscombe scored all 29 points.

Maybe their best chance of picking up a win in the seven games remaining for them this season is against the Lions at Eden Park in a fortnight.

John Mitchell's team from Johannesburg are struggling too and will presumably be softened up by the high-flying Chiefs at Pukekohe this weekend.

There is potential to nick a win over the Force in Auckland in their penultimate game on July 7, but it is hard to see the Blues beating the Crusaders in Christchurch or Brumbies in Canberra. In between those two games are home matches against the Highlanders and Chiefs and both of those teams are playing extremely well.

For his part, Lam said he could only go back to the drawing board, review what went wrong in the 23-11 loss to the Reds and try to "build as a team".

To make matters worse, loosehead prop Tony Woodcock, one of the few players to perform to his potential, has a calf strain, putting him in doubt for the Hurricanes match, and Rudi Wulf has re-aggravated a shoulder problem. He is also unlikely to play.

Hooker Keven Mealamu is likely to return, which is a boost given Tom McCartney struggled with his throwing on Friday, but the All Black hasn't been the best in this area this season either.

Lam said he felt some players were trying too hard, adding he was limited in the changes he could make due to poor form because of the lack of depth in his injury-hit squad.

"We're limited to what we can select," he said.

"You can't just go picking anyone you want. This is what we have. The cattle [talent] is low at the moment. When you don't have other options, you've just got to keep growing and working with what you have."

Woodcock apart, the senior players are letting the Blues down. Ali Williams' season continues to plateau - the All Blacks lock wasn't even calling the lineouts on Friday, leaving it to the inexperienced Filo Paulo. Piri Weepu continues to disappoint. The Blues needed quick ball against the Reds but too often the Queenslanders were allowed to set their defence due to Weepu's slowness at the base of the ruck.

Ma'a Nonu's commitment on defence couldn't be faulted but he was hampered by a corked thigh and left the field in the second half, although his replacement, Benson Stanley, added impact.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen comes into the Blues camp to observe next week on one of his scheduled rounds of the franchises.

"He has offered a lot of advice as well, and support," Lam said.

It remains to be seen whether Lam's senior men are playing their way out of the All Blacks.

Blues' remaining fixtures:
May 4 - v Hurricanes (won 4, lost 5), Wellington
May 11 - v Lions (1-7), Auckland
May 19 - v Crusaders (6-3), Christchurch
May 26 - v Highlanders (7-2), Auckland
June 2 - v Chiefs (8-1), Auckland
July 7 - v Force (2-7), Auckland
July 14 - v Brumbies (5-4), Canberra

- APNZ

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