Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Blues the big losers from Super Rugby weekend

The Blues attacking play against the Highlanders was at times inspired, but they lacked the execution. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.
The Blues attacking play against the Highlanders was at times inspired, but they lacked the execution. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.

What a great game in Dunedin between the Highlanders and Blues that was - one which displayed in stark relief the desperation of the home side and also, unfortunately for the Blues, their continuing inability to win away from Eden Park.

Of the last 24 matches against New Zealand opposition away from home, the Blues have won only one (against the Hurricanes in Wellington in 2013). It goes without saying - if you want to win this competition you need to be able to be successful in inter-franchise games away from home otherwise you won't. And, while they put up a stern challenge in the first half, they fell short again.

The midfield battle was a highlight for me, with Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala and Rieko Ioane current All Blacks, and Richard Buckman acquitting himself well at No12. There will have been plenty for the All Blacks' selectors to digest there, and then of course once Sonny Bill Williams took the field in the second half.

Chatting to Williams pre-game, he looked keen but also in very good shape. The word from the All Blacks' and Blues' camps is that he's in the best nick ever, and he's only going to get better for his run against the Highlanders.

Blues wing Matt Duffie impressed me again, and he must be impressing the All Blacks selectors too. He took a while last season to find his feet back in the game after playing league once he left St Kentigern's College, but he has a rugby background and the skills that he's showing are just what the All Blacks' selectors could be looking for.

His ability under the high ball is probably unsurpassed in the competition and he can break the line, recognise where the space is, and give an offload.

For me, the 26-year-old ticks all the right boxes and is one of the form wings in the competition at the moment.

He's learned to change his lines on defence and attack after playing for the Melbourne Storm, and another positive is that he can play equally well at fullback. That has appeal and only reinforces how blessed we are by outside backs in New Zealand.

Wes Goosen's performance at the weekend for the Hurricanes was impressive, and obviously you have Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder there as well. We also have Waisake Naholo, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Toni Pulu, who scored two tries for the Chiefs. James Lowe is also in good form for the Chiefs.

Any other nation would love the opportunity to have any one of them in their system.

The big winners at the weekend were the Hurricanes, even though they stuttered against the Waratahs in the second half, the Chiefs (yes, they got beaten by the Stormers, but will still feature in the playoffs), and the Crusaders, who had a bye, had two key players in Kieran Read and Richie Mo'unga come through club matches unscathed on their way back from injury, and kept their lead at the top of the New Zealand conference table.

The big losers of course were the Blues, at the bottom of the NZ conference now and with a match against the Hurricanes up next. It's not going to get any easier for them.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 30 May 2017 05:21:17 Processing Time: 521ms