Rugby: Lam leaves Eden Park a winner

Ma'a Nonu of the Blues offloads during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Force at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images.
Ma'a Nonu of the Blues offloads during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Force at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images.

Blues 32
Western Force 9

Pat Lam will be replaced as Blues coach next season but he will at least leave Eden Park as a winner after guiding his side to a comfortable 32-9 win over the Western Force tonight.

The Blues are searching for someone to turn around what has been a dismal campaign.

Lam has reapplied and, while it's unthinkable he will be reappointed, he could be involved somewhere down the food chain.

His side gave him a snapshot tonight of just how frustrating they can be.

They have had a horror run with injuries in 2012 and have had nearly an entire side out each weekend - 12 were missing for this match - but they have also been poor and in the first half tonight were a shambles.

They got shunted back in the scrum, coughed up possession in their own 22 with silly passes, lost their own lineouts and gave away cheap penalties.

Lam might not have what it takes at the highest level but he has been let down by his players and it has contributed to his demise.

It made for a dismal spectacle because the Force were no better.

But there was at least some entertainment in the second spell as the Blues found some rhythm off front-foot ball and they cruised to only their third win of their campaign and leapfrogged the Force into 13th on the competition ladder.

They scored good tries to Ma'a Nonu and Charles Piutau, and the hard-working Luke Braid also latched onto a Force mistake to grab the fourth of the night in the 70th minute.

The Force provided little resistance and the Crusaders will surely dispatch them with ease next weekend in Christchurch to confirm their place in the playoffs but a win at least rewarded the Eden Park faithful.

If there is one thing to come out of the Blues' campaign, it might be the emergence of a handful of promising players. Impressive blindside flanker Steven Luatua scored his first try in Super Rugby when he buried over close to the line and fullback Piutau capped off a good debut when he crossed in the second half.

There are fears, however, they will lose Nonu in 2013 and he was easily one of the best players tonight. The All Black second five-eighths, who hadn't played for five weeks as he sat out the recent Ireland series, unleashed a handful of clever, long passes that put teammates into space and his try was his 100th in first-class rugby.

The Blues have a difficult end to their season when they travel to take on the Brumbies in Canberra next Saturday but almost everything has been difficult in 2012.

Blues 32 (Steven Luatua, Charles Piutau, Ma'a Nonu, Luke Braid tries; Lachie Munro 2 pens, 3 cons) Force 9 (Ben Seymour 3 pens). HT: 13-9.

- APNZ

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