Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Chance for Blues to get away game in bag

Match against Reds could be launch pad to check woeful record.
Blues v Hurricanes on March 11, 2016. Photo / Getty Images
Blues v Hurricanes on March 11, 2016. Photo / Getty Images

If the Blues' trajectory is ever going to correct itself and point skyward, overhauling their chronically awful away record has to be the launch pad.

Quite how bad they have been away from home in the past three years takes time to appreciate.

Between 2013 and 2015, they won just twice. It's been crippling - no side can expect to be anywhere near the playoffs if they can't pick up points in half their games.

Last year's champions, the Highlanders, won five on the road during the round robin, then landed two away playoff wins. They picked up 23 competition points on their travels - the Blues just four. The Hurricanes topped the competition table - taking 31 points on the road.

The Blues, in contrast, have won just 21 competition points away from home in the past three years and to date, haven't added to that total in 2016.

They kicked off the opening game of the John Kirwan coaching era in 2013 with a spectacular victory against the Hurricanes in Wellington but didn't win outside Auckland again until June 28, when they beat the Force 40-14 in Perth.

And that's been their lot. They didn't win an away game in 2015 and their first under Tana Umaga in round two saw the Blues well beaten by the Crusaders. No other side in the competition has delivered such contrasting form. The Blues are Jekyll and Hyde in the most dramatic way and the results, or lack of, don't give the full picture.

So rarely, if at all, in the past three years have they even been in contention to win on the road. They have turned up, looked flaky from the start, got worse as the game has worn on and never looked remotely like winning. That's been the sad pattern and if anyone is going to believe that a revival is possible, then tonight's game against the Reds has to be a line in the sand moment.

The question isn't so much can the Blues finally win in Brisbane, it's whether they can deliver a performance that allows them to be vaguely recognisable as the team they are when they play at Eden Park. In Christchurch, they looked to be an entirely different team to the one the week before at Eden Park.

Their structure collapsed like always, their decision-making deserted them and they didn't perform. The likely outcome could be safely predicted after 20 minutes.

They will be in Brisbane to play a weak, winless Reds team who fired their coach a couple of weeks ago. Suncorp has to be the place where the Blues prove that they can go away from home and play with confidence, shape and authority.

As much as the Blues talk of the new lease of life the Reds will have playing at home for the first time under a new regime, the Queensland outfit are a good candidate to finish close to last this year.

"I think it's massive," says Blues forwards coach Glenn Moore in regard to the importance of playing well away from home. "That's all our focus has been - making sure we get a performance and that it is consistent. We haven't been talking a lot about winning and losing - we have been talking about getting that performance and making sure that it is consistent. We know if we can get that performance we can win games.

"It [Blues away record] has certainly been mentioned. We know what we think we need to do [to improve performance away from home] and it will be a good old test for us this week."

- NZ Herald

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