Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Blues getting better with every game

Blues 40 Brumbies 15
James Parsons led from the front in the Blues' big win over the Brumbies. Photo / Getty
James Parsons led from the front in the Blues' big win over the Brumbies. Photo / Getty

If only the season were starting and not ending. Even if there were just a handful of games left - things would be interesting.

The Blues are definitely a better team now than they were in February and if they had a bit more time, they could push a long way up the table. They have fixed most, nearly all of their obvious shortcomings and are beginning to play with the confidence and belief that the best teams muster to pull all their component parts together.

To be frank, they wiped the floor with the Brumbies. It was never much of a contest and while that may say more about the appalling state of the Australian conference, it says plenty enough about the Blues, too.

All of a sudden they can play rugby again. They knew what they were doing and stuck to it. The maddening daft errors were almost gone and their simplicity was the making of them.

Why complicate things seems to be the way they are thinking now. Just run straight and hard, hold the depth and only push the pass when it is definitely on. It all sounds as easy as pie but anyone who has been at Eden park this past decade knows that the players have found it anything but.

How much the Brumbies assisted is hard to be sure. There's no question they weren't any good. They had no energy or hunger. They looked, from as early as the fifth minute, as if they didn't want to be there and they had two tricks - a powerful scrum and an even more powerful driving maul.

That was it - they had all the imagination of an actuary and all the style of a physics teacher. It was never going to be enough to win, especially when they defended with no guile or passion.

Even when the Blues were reduced to 14 men - when Jerome Kaino was yellow carded for bringing down a rolling maul - they were able to find space on the flanks simply by getting the ball out there.

But it would be unfair to suggest the Blues didn't earn their dues. They were good value - played with the sort of pace and intensity that suggests if they can tighten a few things up next year, they will be able to compete with the best sides.

They have a physicality across the park now. Their ball carriers, like they were last week in Wellington, were dominant. Their tackles were much like that, too and they made, for the most part, good decisions about where and when to attack.

They were patient, accurate and maybe most importantly, they were capable of holding their shape and belief for the 80 minutes. There was no mental drift off as there has been. There was no lull, no iffy period where they hung back asking themselves if they were actually good enough to win.

The shame now is that they have just the one game left because in this kind of form, their season could have actually come to something.

- NZ Herald

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