There is only one match left for the Blues this season, but still plenty to play for. A win over the Waratahs at Eden Park on Friday would seal the franchise's best season since 2011 when they were beaten in the semifinals.

The franchise's supporters have suffered through plenty of false hope and disappointment since then, but have every right to feel more optimistic since the arrival of coach Tana Umaga and in particular the Blues' past three performances.

The 40-15 demolition of the Brumbies, the top-ranked Australian side, at Eden Park last Friday was no fluke. The Blues played with ambition and confidence; all of their six tries came via their ability to see space and exploit it through their superior skills, and the Brumbies, surprisingly deficient defensively, had few answers.

Victory against the Waratahs, the second best Aussie side still in with a chance of a playoffs spot, should they win with a bonus point and the Brumbies somehow fail to do the same at home against a Force team in disarray, would give them eight victories for the season.

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Last year, they won only three matches in total; their two away victories this season - against the Kings and Force - were their first in two years. They won seven matches in a 15-team competition in 2014, the best return of the Sir John Kirwan era.

There have been plenty of wobbles this season - their draw against the Reds in Brisbane, 43-5 thrashing at the hands of the Lions in Johannesburg, and inability to finish off the Crusaders at Eden Park and Hurricanes (twice) - are testament to that, but there has been tangible progress.

Umaga said after his team's win over the Brumbies, their best performance of the season to go with their surprise round one victory over the defending champion Highlanders, that strengthening his players mentally had been key.

"Hopefully you've seen that, just in terms of coping with adversity on the field, and just that confidence to play," he said. "That's what we did as kids, that's how the game is played. Obviously the game is faster and tougher and harder now, but in the end it's still the same game. When we enjoy ourselves and are united as a group, we go well, and we want to continue doing that."

That may not bode well for a Waratahs team probably still reeling from their 28-17 defeat to the Hurricanes in Sydney at the weekend which leaves their finals hopes hanging by a thread.

Daryl Gibson's team will travel hoping for a miracle and that could play into the hands of the Blues, who made 22 clean breaks to the Brumbies' five and 22 offloads to the Brumbies' seven.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
11 Jul, 2016 1:00pm
3 minutes to read

The Blues recent record
2016: 11th; 7 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses*

2015: 14th; 3 wins, 13 losses

2014: 10th; 7 wins, 9 losses

2013: 10th; 6 wins, 10 losses

2012: 12th; 4 wins, 12 losses

2011: 4th; 10 wins, 1 draw, 5 losses

*One match remaining.