Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Homesick Blues fall apart again

Ma'a Nonu of the Blues is tackled during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Brumbies and the Bulls at Canberra Stadium. Photo / Getty Images
Ma'a Nonu of the Blues is tackled during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Brumbies and the Bulls at Canberra Stadium. Photo / Getty Images

Brumbies 26
Blues 9

The road trip blues continue for Sir John Kirwan, his side's loss tonight against the Brumbies at a wet Canberra Stadium extending a remarkably poor record away from home.

The Blues last won away on February 23 last year, a comfortable victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington starting Kirwan's reign in the best possible way. Unfortunately for him and his team, he hasn't presided over one since. This season away from home they have lost to the Highlanders, Bulls, Lions and now the Brumbies, a streak of 12 away defeats.

That record can only deflate the positivity surrounding the franchise after their successive victories at home over the Cheetahs and Highlanders, and their bye next weekend will force them to stew on it.

A win would have put the Blues on top of the New Zealand conference, but they didn't get close, the home side led to victory by Wallabies midfielder Pat McCabe, who scored two tries and terrorised young Blues first-five Simon Hickey all night, and Jesse Mogg, the supremely talented fullback.

Wynne Gray's First Take: Blues stifled in wet weather

There were positives. The Blues' scrum, a set piece rated among the worst in the competition and the subject of much work recently, was dominant. It was harshly penalised twice in the first half, and won a defensive tighthead after the break. The lineout wasn't bad. Jerome Kaino and Hayden Triggs were probably the pick of the Blues' forwards.

Where they were let down was at the contact - the Brumbies took control here and their maul was a constant threat too. And they were let down also by their defence and kicking game, both of which were so impressive in their win over the Highlanders last weekend.

Hickey was at fault for McCabe's first try, the first-five slipping off the midfielder, who has begun the year so impressively after two major neck injuries in 2013.

What followed was an armwrestle, the Blues rarely in attacking positions due to their lack of possession and the fact that in Mogg the Brumbies have a fullback on top of his game. Mogg, the attacking maestro with five tries this season, showed a different side to his game. He was rarely out of position and his kicking skills are second to none.

The Brumbies played with intelligence and control. Nic White is an under-rated halfback for the Brumbies, No8 Ben Mowen an improving leader as well as a dominant lineout operator.

Hickey was under constant pressure, his uncertain night on defence compounded by a couple of kicking errors and standing dead in-goal when attempting to clear. A shocking forward pass by Ma'a Nonu when the Blues looked to threaten in the second half underlined the backs' performance.

Benji Marshall, who replaced wing Tevita Li for the final 23 minutes, sparked a late attack with Charles Piutau but to no avail.

The Blues attacked at the end a pass from Luke Braid, who played the final 28 minutes, to replacement hooker James Parsons, would have earned a try on the hooter, but it went forward. It all came to nothing, much like their night in general.

Never before have the Blues been kept try-less by the Brumbies, that misfiring firepower in the backline a cause for concern.

Brumbies 26 (Pat McCabe 2, Robbie Coleman tries; Nic White 2 pens, con, Christian Lealiifano pen)

Blues 9 (Simon Hickey 3 pens)

Halftime: 13-6

- APNZ

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