Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues desperate to halt the horror

Blues coach Pat Lam gathers the team for a talk during an Auckland Blues Super Rugby training session at Unitec. Photo / Getty Images
Blues coach Pat Lam gathers the team for a talk during an Auckland Blues Super Rugby training session at Unitec. Photo / Getty Images

Whatever the motivation or method, the Blues don't care, they just want to be able to celebrate a victory tonight at Eden Park.

It's been a long time since they drank from the winner's mug, two months since they claimed their solitary entry in the winning inventory when they beat the Bulls in Pretoria.

It was Ma'a Nonu's debut for the Blues and a match where Piri Weepu and Gareth Anscombe made their first start for the franchise.

Anscombe collected all 29 points as the Blues overturned defeats in their first two games and pessimistic theories about knocking the Bulls off at altitude. It also marked the season exits of Jerome Kaino and Isaia Toeava.

Since then, nothing but a gathering cluster of defeat and despair climaxed with this week's decision to advertise coach Pat Lam's job.

There have been narrow losses and substantial defeats like the latest stumbles against the Reds and Hurricanes.

Now the Lions are in town, the poorest of the South African sides who are being tipped to merge with the Cheetahs next season so the Southern Kings can enter the competition.

Blues' optimists maintain this is the match when they will halt the horror results and deliver a little cheer.

The TAB rate the Blues a strong chance and Paul the Octopus would probably go that way, too, if he was still breathing.

Captain Keven Mealamu will be missing again because of a calf strain and further pain that he cannot be part of the side to try to make amends for "Coach" as he calls his friend Lam.

"We let Coach down and we failed him," Mealamu said. "I know Coach is a proud Auckland man, proud Blues man, brought up in this region and we are disappointed we have not been able to look after him on the field.

"Obviously Coach is responsible for preparing us but at the end of the day as players, we have a responsibility to go out and get the job done on the field."

There's a broken record sound about that especially with the standards delivered by the Blues in the last few weeks. They have been dreadful and while it is easy to believe there is no infighting or rifts, there has been little sign of grit, skill or game plans to haul them out of the mire.

They have 10 players out with injury this week but the Lions have also spent much of this competition without five of their preferred pack and their senior halfback and five-eighths. They won their opening game of the season and that's it.

Tonight the sides square off for the Cellar Cup before they eye a merciful end of the Super 15 and some escape.

- NZ Herald

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