Each day this week nzherald.co.nz looks at the progress of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises heading into the business end of the tournament. In the final report Wynne Gray grades the Blues.
Season so far
(5-4) 2nd in NZC, 5th overall
1. Best Result:
35-15 v Crusaders, Eden Park, Week 3
The second round win over the benchmark NZ side, the Crusaders. The Blues began with a strong win against the Canes but there were doubts about a repeat.
What a stuffing! Five tries to none against a side full of All Blacks.
2. Worst result:
27-30 v Waratahs, Sydney, Week 7
Defeat to the Waratahs after leading 24-10 at the interval. Mistakes piled up, turnovers, missed tackles and penalties in what was a sorry response after the previous loss to the Bulls.
3. Best Player: Hard to go past Steven Luatua. A rookie really after a few starts last season, Luatua has shown a Kaino-like capacity for hard work as well as some deft attacking skills. Great start to his career.
4. Biggest flop: Liaki Moli. Had shone for Auckland and national age-groups but his indiscipline and lack of detail at the Super 15 level has disappointed when he had a chance to nail a starting role..
5. 2013 prospects: So far so good. Second in the NZ conference and scarcely troubled by injury. But the hard slog begins now, a seven game stretch in which they have to keep winning to fend off the challange from the Crusaders and perhaps qualify for the finals.
6. 2014 prospects: Will find it even harder, as the Hurricanes and Chiefs have done. Need some strong off-season contracting and development to bolster their tight five to assist progress.