Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Away-day Blues continue

Reds 25 Blues 25
Male Sa'u of the Blues breaks through the Reds' defence. Photo / Getty
Male Sa'u of the Blues breaks through the Reds' defence. Photo / Getty

Maybe the Blues are never going to win away from home again. They won't be too sure what to make of a draw but when they come to think about it, they will know they blew an opportunity to finally win away from home.

What will trouble them is that they fired shots - had plenty of ball, territory and opportunity - but, for the millionth time in the last three years, didn't have the control or clinical touch.

Just like last week, they were in at the death, chasing that last try to win. But when they needed to be calm and disciplined, they weren't. They were good enough to win the penalty for the draw, but too many times in the second half they were a bit wild and inaccurate when a simple pass and catch may have netted them points.

Crucial mistakes at crucial times - the Blues have become a broken record. They can't seem to pull it all together when they are away from home and have now won just twice in 25 away games.

It's the worse record in the competition and who knows if it will ever end? The Reds were the perfect opponent, or at least they should have been, for the Blues to stop the rot. The Reds were poor in the first three rounds, had no confidence, structure or real vision of what they were all about.

The Blues knew that and that it was vital that, regardless of the outcome, they at least delivered a performance.

It's not just that they haven't won away from home since June 2014, they haven't even played well, either. In all the games they have played away from Eden Park since they beat the Force the better part of two years ago, they have been shapeless and toothless.

The recipe has been the same almost every time - run out and look a bit awful, get well beaten and trudge home. That had to change in Brisbane where no visiting team should be made to look awful.

They were well beaten in the scrum and it's an area of their game that hasn't performed all season.

They have the players, size, weight, power and strength, but something isn't going right. The Reds wouldn't convince as one of the better scrummaging packs but still had the Blues in trouble.

What the Blues were, though, was defensively astute - opting to compete less on the floor at the tackled ball and to instead build the pressure with their linespeed and aggression.

It worked well for them - largely because they made good, two-man tackles that knocked the Reds ball-carriers back. The Blues were also smart in the way they so often managed to rip the ball clean out of unsuspecting ball carriers' hands. It was obviously a deliberate tactic because their return was almost unbelievably high.

And yet, for all the pressure they applied and all the chances they had, the Blues were once again unable to win away from home.

Reds 25 (C. Feauai-Sautia, S. Kerevi, J. McIntrye tries; J. McIntyre 2 cons, 2 pens)
Blues 25 (I. West, B. Hall, B. Guyton tries; I. West 2 cons, 2 pens).
Halftime: 15-13.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 25 Oct 2016 05:25:34 Processing Time: 644ms