Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Blues will see red if chances lost

The statistics tell two stories - one of dominance by the Blues, and also that of a wasted opportunity. Photo / Getty Images
The statistics tell two stories - one of dominance by the Blues, and also that of a wasted opportunity. Photo / Getty Images

The effort from the pack against the Hurricanes was much improved from the week before but now the onus will be on the Blues backs to rediscover a ruthless edge ahead of their visit to the under-siege Reds in Brisbane.

Time and again, the Blues broke through the Hurricanes defence during their 23-19 defeat at Eden Park on Friday night only for individuals to squander the opportunity or allow Ardie Savea and his teammates to steal the ball at the breakdown.

The statistics tell two stories - one of dominance by the Blues, and also that of a wasted opportunity.

Tana Umaga's men made 14 clean breaks to the visitors' four, ran a total of 534m with the ball against 234m, and, most staggeringly of all, beat 36 defenders to the Hurricanes' 16, and yet could score only two tries to the opposition's three.

At times, Rene Ranger on the right wing was a frustrated spectator despite his finishing power being displayed in the first quarter when he scored a try in the right corner with a freakish dive against none other than All Black Julian Savea.

Despite their appalling away record under previous coach John Kirwan, the Blues are likely to be favourites to beat the Reds, who have yet to win this season and who sacked coach Richard Graham last week, but once again there is plenty to work on.

"We made some good breaks and a couple of times when we broke, we needed to get the ball to width and we didn't get it through the middle of the field ... we just need to look at why the ball didn't get through there," assistant coach Paul Feeney said.

"Obviously the players make decisions based on what they see, so we just need to speak to them and see what position they took and why they took it at times. I suppose it's a double-edged sword - it's good that we're making line breaks and putting defences under pressure, but you've got to take the points when you get the opportunity.

"Making the most of our opportunities is something we have to get right."

Umaga's players got on the wrong side of referee Nick Briant in the third quarter, the official handing out what the Blues coach estimated as eight out of nine penalties against his team, a run which made their comeback more difficult but no less thrilling.

Despite being camped on the Hurricanes line with a numerical superiority following the sin-binning of Victor Vito, the Blues couldn't make the breakthrough in the final minutes that would have handed them the victory.

Umaga's forwards will be reminded about the need to charge for the line in numbers rather than as individuals, but he will be pleased with how they responded to the pasting from the Crusaders pack in Christchurch a week earlier.

Against the Hurricanes, the Blues won all 11 of their lineouts and stole two of their opposition's. They also won all their scrums, an area of concern at AMI Stadium.

A similar effort from the Blues pack and a better conversion rate by the backline at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday could see the franchise win their first away match since July 2014 - not that Umaga will be taking anything for granted.

"Obviously they've had some changes over there at the Reds and we know how that works ... [it's] their first game at home under a new regime," he said. "We know when these things happen, the squad galvanise themselves and we have to be ready for that."

The numbers game

The Blues won the numbers game against the Hurricanes but lost the match:

Metres with ball: Blues 534m to Hurricanes 234m

Clean breaks: 14-4

Defenders beaten: 16-6

Offloads: 22-4

Tackles: 116-169

Missed tackles: 16-36

But - tries: 2-3

- NZ Herald

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