Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Sad but true...losing faith in Tana Umaga.

What can you say? The Blues give each other a cuddle after their shocker against the Highlanders. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
What can you say? The Blues give each other a cuddle after their shocker against the Highlanders. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

This will be reasonably short and not so sweet.

Impetuously perhaps, I lost faith in the Tana Umaga coaching regime on Saturday night. The Blues were THAT bad. And Jerome Kaino's captaincy is heading the same way, after he turned down the try scoring chance he HAD to take against the Highlanders.

Nothing would give greater pleasure than witnessing Umaga succeed - it's actually tough watching a legendary All Black, one that you revered, looking lost in a coaching box. There are times when it would be better if those boxes had tinted windows.

But after a decade or more of watching the Blues become the Kiwi kings of rudderless rugby it's easy to crack at the first sign of yet more trouble.

Please Tana. Show us a sign. Anything will do, like winning a few lineouts in a row. Give us something to cling on to, because the manner of defeats against the Chiefs and Highlanders has been extremely concerning.

First crisis to be solved: There's a gaping hole at first five-eighths, where Ihaia West isn't up to the job.

What a shambles. Like seriously? The Blues can't even score a try against a team battered by injuries before and during the game.

Going backwards. A distant fifth out of five New Zealand teams. Unbalanced. Appalling set pieces, particularly lineouts. Haphazard cohesion. Players with little game sense.

These are the Blues slogans which screamed out from Eden Park. When Patrick Tuipulotu dropped the ball on fulltime charging for the line with the result on the line, it was absolutely no surprise at all. In fact, you kind of expected it.

The Highlanders were borderline horrible and the Blues worse. An Auckland-based team facing such depleted opponents on Eden Park should win by 20 points.

The Blues rely on individualism and it would be wonderful if it worked, but their skills are too scruffy. A boulder has more chance of catching a surf break at Piha than the Blues had of catching the Highlanders' bombs. And there were plenty of those up and unders, to use the old lingo, to miss.

Because that's about all the Highlanders do. Kick, kick, kick. They play like we think England do. But at least it kind of works for Tony Brown's men.

Kaino had a penalty in front of the posts late in the game, when a try would have given his side a thoroughly un-deserved lead. He took the penalty goal option instead. Wrong move, big time, in a night full of wrong moves.

Umaga's team is going nowhere, three games into his second season. They had to win on Saturday night. Everything was in their favour. Their season is already over, because they are no chance to win enough games against their New Zealand conference rivals.

Jerome Kaino blocking an Aaron Smith kick, one of many mistakes by the battling All Black halfback at Eden Park. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jerome Kaino blocking an Aaron Smith kick, one of many mistakes by the battling All Black halfback at Eden Park. Photo / Greg Bowker

By my count, the once-great All Black halfback Aaron Smith made eight significant errors in the first half alone, with five coming in the first 12 minutes. Just saying.

England and Scotland duke it out during the lopsided Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham, leaving England on the verge of a tier one record. Photo / Photosport
England and Scotland duke it out during the lopsided Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham, leaving England on the verge of a tier one record. Photo / Photosport

Well done to England, for equalling a rugby record that no one should care too much about.

Scotland looked out of their depth from the opening minutes at Twickenham, as England went on to crush them and equal the All Blacks string of 18 victories by a tier one side.

Scotland weren't helped by injuries, but that is a red herring. A confident, rampant England are terrific for world rugby. The rise under Eddie Jones is making up for the gap left by the sad decline of South Africa and Australia.

It is also further whetting the appetite for this year's Lions tour and three test series against the All Blacks. Warren Gatland's squad will contain a couple of great packs, ace goalkicking, and plenty of running firepower even if subtleties are in short supply.

As for the 18-game record though, it's an apples and oranges deal, of pointless comparisons. And the Cyprus record - the actual test record - of 24 straight wins is a much more interesting story.

Simon Mannering against the Storm. Photo / Greg Bowker
Simon Mannering against the Storm. Photo / Greg Bowker

As for the Warriors, let's try hard and think of a positive out of the loss to Melbourne. No, nothing coming to me yet.

The Storm came to Auckland with a new look pack, Kevin Proctor having moved on to the Titans and his fellow Kiwis Jesse Bromwich and Tohu Harris sidelined by injury.

Did this make a difference? Not on your nelly. The Storm went through their routines, while the Warriors played boring, misdirected football and got stuffed.

Shaun Johnson was as flaky as ever. Here's an irony. Young five eighth Ata Hingano is playing with a great attitude. Yet he's the guy in the firing line, when Kieran Foran is ready to return to the NRL.

As for Stephen Kearney, he is only two games in as the new Warriors coach, so unfair to judge him yet.

- NZ Herald

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