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

Rugby: Blues need to rediscover their attacking mojo

Rieko Ioane of the Blues makes a break to score a try during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images
Rieko Ioane of the Blues makes a break to score a try during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images

As the Blues prepare for a rare late-afternoon match against the Rebels at Eden Park on Saturday, one thing in particular should be occupying their minds - rediscovering their attacking mojo.

They are bottom of the table for average tries per match in the New Zealand conference, a shame given their history and the fact that one of the first and last things opposition coaches used to warn about before a match was their counter-attack.

Alas, the razzle dazzle they become known for - from the first year of competition and their three consecutive finals appearances - has been missing this season under Tana Umaga, just as it was in John Kirwan's final stint last year.

This year, they have scored only 15 tries in seven matches, 2.1 per match, which puts them well behind even the Sunwolves and Jaguares, both of whom have scored 20 tries this season.

Last year, the Blues scored 1.8 tries per match on their way to finishing 14th of 15 teams, two statistics which hastened Kirwan's exit.

The Blues aren't blessed with an All Black laden backline like the teams of 1996-98, but they do have talented players and, for whatever reason, are struggling to get over the line. In 2014 - admittedly with All Black Ma'a Nonu in the midfield - the Blues scored an average of 2.8 tries per round-robin match, finishing sixth on the try-scoring list (and 10th on the points table), outscoring even the Crusaders, who went on to contest the final against the Waratahs.

Pragmatic types might say only victories are important, but that doesn't apply during this Super Rugby season: just look at the front-running Chiefs and Crusaders, who average 5.4 and 4.5 tries respectively per match.

Both those teams have well organised defences, very good set pieces (although the Hurricanes put enormous pressure on the Chiefs' scrum in Wellington), and, just as importantly, an attacking instinct which sees them able to cut teams to ribbons should the opportunity arise.

The All Blacks set the standard at last year's World Cup, where they backed their individual skill level no matter the risk. With the rest of the world scrambling to keep up, that trend has flowed through to Super Rugby, but, of the New Zealand teams, only the Blues are struggling to consistently get their attack going.

The Rebels, who find themselves on top of the Australian conference, scored a good 36-14 win over the Cheetahs in Melbourne at the weekend, but were made to look extremely ordinary by the Hurricanes the week before in a 38-13 defeat.

Umaga and his men leave for South Africa at 7am on Sunday morning for their matches against the Lions and Sharks; it's important they wake to their early start following a morale-boosting, attacking performance.

- NZ Herald

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