Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues' worst game, says Kirwan

As he assessed the Blues' untidy loss to the Bulls, coach Sir John Kirwan rated it their season's worst performance.

While he bristled about the lack of precision, he could also see a bonus point and a near result in the loss to the Bulls.

This was an Eden Park afternoon when the Blues discovered some rugby realities which had not surfaced in their trial matches or wins against the Hurricanes and Crusaders.

"I think everyone was 5 per cent off and we need to take a really good look at how we are individually preparing for these games," Kirwan said.

He did not regret the number of changes he made for this game but accepted the selection switches may have had some impact.

New prop Tim Perry, hooker Quentin MacDonald, flanker Kane Barrett and five-eighths Baden Kerr were strong performers. But wing Waisake Naholo had a difficult day retrieving a succession of high kicks..

Elsewhere there was a lack of energy and commitment and adherence to a game plan.

"If we are going to play badly we need to play badly within our structures," he said.

Similar frustrations came from captain Ali Williams, who could not understand why his teammates were not playing patterns they had trained.

But he glowed in the last 10 minutes when he asked them to "chuck everything at it" and they responded with the sort of sting they had in two previous matches.

After a debrief today, the Blues will be spelled for their bye before regrouping for their next away test against the Waratahs.

The review will show the Blues started well but then went through an array of lapses, while the Bulls had similar issues but regained their focus to claim the historic result.

When they needed to squash the Blues late rally, they did.

From Steyn's kickoff they forced Steven Luatua into touch, rumbled off a lineout and won a penalty for Morne Steyn to goal.

They were not all rumble and kick though.

They found time to shift the ball wide for one smart try to Lionel Mapoe and scored a superbly interactive long range try from a lineout move including a remarkable fingertip juggle and catch from Werner Kruger.

"Some good players have played for the Bulls and never won here," delighted captain Pierre Spies said.

"We like to vary our game a bit and also make use of opportunities we are given. You have to have a complete game if you want to win the competition and you have to focus on your strengths also.

"Some days things work for you, other days they don't and that's why you have to be able to play in all areas of the field."

The priorities for the Blues will be to rekindle the excitement levels which shone through their first few games, take stock, regroup and then fire up against the Waratahs who are enduring a difficult start to the series.

- NZ Herald

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