Patrick McKendry 's Opinion

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Why the Blues must win ...

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Herald rugby writers offer differing views on the stakes for tomorrow night's Super Rugby blockbuster.

Rampaging Blues loose forward Jerome Kaino. Photo / Getty Images
Rampaging Blues loose forward Jerome Kaino. Photo / Getty Images

There is no overstating the importance of this next match for the Blues.

That's probably why coach John Kirwan appeared so relaxed in talking to the media about his team's chances this week - he doesn't want to increase the pressure.

The Blues will be the underdogs against the Chiefs in New Plymouth, he said, and he is probably right, but he must feel he is on the brink of snapping his team's appalling away record.

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There is a growing confidence in this group, even without injured captain Luke Braid, which went without mention by Kirwan. The belief is growing - consecutive victories have that effect.

The consistency of selection is paying off, every player appears to know his role, there is more determination in carrying and contact, even the set piece has improved.

The 12-match losing streak on the road was laughed off by Kirwan but there is no escaping the fact that the Blues won't be in a position to challenge for the title if they can't rectify it and it is within their abilities to do so.

There was a period in the second half of the Blues' demolition job on the Reds at Eden Park when the home side look like scoring every time they had the ball. Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Lolagi Visinia, all of their backline strike weapons had their hands up for the ball. That excitement is contagious and it was a world away from the team's weak effort against the Hurricanes in Wellington a fortnight earlier.

The forwards, led by the rampaging Patrick Tuipulotu and Jerome Kaino and improving front row of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina, are providing the platform for that backline dominance and must do the same at Yarrow Stadium. Kaino is becoming increasingly influential with his carrying and defence and that momentum is spreading.

The Chiefs looked nervous in their last match against the Lions. They were hesitant on defence and attack and the Blues have the firepower to exploit that.

Another away defeat would undo all of their good work of the past fortnight and allow the doubts to creep back in.

"This is a really critical month," Kirwan said. "There's some critical games and this is one of them. If we can get a victory this week it sets us in good stead going forward. We've got the Sharks and Hurricanes at home and then another break [away]. It [a loss] won't be the end of the world but if we can get a win before the bye I think it will be fundamental for our confidence."

What better way to break your away duck than a victory over the defending champions?

• Read Wynne Gray's differing view here.

- NZ Herald

Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby writer Patrick McKendry began his journalism career 20 years ago and has worked in newspapers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He worked in a communications role on his return here before joining APN before the 2011 World Cup.

Read more by Patrick McKendry

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