Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: The Blues season isn't quite over yet

Kara Pryor of the Blues is tackled Harry Scoble of the Force during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Force and the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.
Kara Pryor of the Blues is tackled Harry Scoble of the Force during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Force and the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.

Somehow the Blues managed to hang on to beat the Force and keep their faintest playoff hopes alive.

They were in full meltdown mode in the last 10 minutes - doing almost everything they shouldn't. They were rash. They were loose. They were all over the place - guilty of the dumbest stuff and yet, somehow, they hung on.

And because their luck held out, their season isn't over quite yet. They can't be considered a good bet to win any more games, but on the points table at least, they look like a contender.

But they will need to fix a million things. They were a bit of a shambles in the second half in Perth - and really only managed to win because the Force were a travesty as well.

The positive for the Blues was that they had the determination and urgency to take charge of the game. They didn't lack confidence or hang back - it was direct and resourceful rugby that got them ahead and put the disaster of Johannesburg behind them early.

What will have pleased coach Tana Umaga in the first half was the awareness. Conditions were variable in Perth. A storm had raged all day and while the worst of it had passed by kick off, there was a gusty wind and squally rain.

The Force seemed to have the mindset that there was no real way to play rugby and they kicked and chased - not particularly well. The Blues, on the other hand, were willing to back their skills and held the ball. They pushed long passes and threw offloads which stuck.

It was perhaps risky - but it was well judged risk and brought them plenty of reward.

No one was better at earning those rewards than George Moala. He suddenly, after having been mostly out of sorts this season, found his form. He was direct. He was strong and he didn't overplay his offloading card. He threw plenty, but none were ill-judged and it made a huge difference.

It gave the Blues continuity and the space they needed to break the Force defence. And that was huge because it was definitely a night where the half chances had to be converted - where every point on offer had to be taken.

On that front, other than an easy penalty midway through the second half, the Blues had the clinical edge they needed. They scored two well-taken tries in the first half and showed a level of previously unseen patience to do so.

But for all that they played the majority of the rugby, they didn't play enough. They didn't keep ownership of either territory or possession and let the Force back into the game.

Mistakes began to creep in. They turned the ball over more and they lost that urgency and directness that they had earlier in the game.

It looked like they were tired from three weeks on the road. But more alarmingly, it looked like the longer the game went on, the more they began to lose confidence.

The final 15 minutes were all about them surviving. They had the lead and their mindset appeared to be one of defending it. Their ambition disappeared as they seemed to have just one thought - keep the Force from scoring.

Some of their thinking was unfathomable. They tried to run inside their own half - but more to wind the clock down than to go forward.

Blues 17 (J. Kaino, T. Li tries; I.West pen, 2 cons).
Force 13 (M. Hodgson try; I. Prior pen, B. Tapaui con, pen)
Halftime: Blues 17-3.

- NZ Herald

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