Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues show colours but far too late

Charles Piutau, a late-season introduction, breaks through against the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium. Photo / Getty Images
Charles Piutau, a late-season introduction, breaks through against the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium. Photo / Getty Images

It was rugby, but not as we have seen it for much of this season with the Blues.

They were busy, they played with purpose and looked interested as they dispatched the Brumbies 30-16 in their final match of the Super 15 season.

The Brumbies led the Australian conference going into their final game in Canberra and needed a solitary bonus point to keep their lead and head into the six-team playoffs.

But the Brumbies were dreadful in what should have been a strong response to hooker Stephen Moore playing his 100th match.

The Blues, meanwhile, showed some spirit, concentration and resolve - which has been absent for much of this year's blight.

They also managed to get their 42nd player on the field when Albert Nikoro replaced Lachie Munro, who was left out of the travelling group because he missed the last training session.

The Blues began with great venom, scoring two converted tries before some of the dysfunction which has clouded their work reappeared.

They conceded a converted try and two penalties and there must have been thoughts of "here we go again".

This time they responded, tightened their defensive line and shut out the Brumbies for the rest of the contest.

It was a revelation, a hint of what might have been from an organised group and what could be, with the forced late-season introduction of young men such as Charles Piutau, Francis Saili and Steven Luatua.

The Blues were everything they haven't been for much of their painful itinerary. They were busy, they offloaded with purpose and accuracy, they had players hitting the breakdowns and cleaning out possession. They did not get isolated often and for much of the match were decisive.

They looked like they had a plan and knew how to put it into action. Their fluid ball movement and interaction was too much for the Brumbies.

A late first-half move started by Piutau and ended by Hadleigh Parkes after numerous teammates handled, was a real gem.

They worked out to a strong lead midway through the second half by the time the rain arrived and the temperature lowered.

That suited the Brumbies, who turned to the pick and drive and mauling routines which have served them strongly.

However, the Blues fended off all those intrusions and held on for successive victories. In the context of this shoddy campaign, it was huge.

The reality of four wins in 16 games was poor even with all the real and imagined reasons which will be proffered by the coaching group.

Only the Lions and Force finished below the Blues on the points table.

Despite all the travails, the Blues held their unity probably because their ineptitude was spread widely across the franchise.

And captain Keven Mealamu showed his quality as he congratulated Moore on his achievement and praised his troops, especially the younger players, for their contribution.

The Blues matches have finished, but they have several more weeks' work as the management and coaching crew complete their reviews and reports on a season to forget.

- NZ Herald

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