Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Blues' problems go much deeper than coaching staff

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The Blues had another unsuccessful game against the Crusaders. Photo / Getty IMages
The Blues had another unsuccessful game against the Crusaders. Photo / Getty IMages

B.L.U.E.S - bewildered losers under enormous stress.

You could think of worse things to say - much worse - after another woeful performance, this time against the Crusaders on Saturday.

Now the Highlanders will be wringing their hands in anticipation as they reach the front of the Super 15 queue for easy points against the Blues. It has become the match for teams to regain some of their pattern, to sort out some of the mistakes which have crept into their game, a training run of sorts.

That's what Saturday night's clash between the Crusaders and Blues resembled, as the hosts bounced away with a 59-12 victory.

They had been spluttering in recent weeks, team patterns were not gelling and players were operating several cylinders below their best.

Much of that turned around as the Blues offered an ineffective response to their latest mission.

They baffled from the start. Why coach Pat Lam started with young tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao instead of his named choice Tevita Mailau, was a mystery and provided cannon-fodder for the Crusaders.

The rookie prop was pulled after 28 minutes in which the Blues scrum was pounded and the score blew out to 19-0 to the Crusaders.

There were some exquisite moments from the Crusaders and plenty to admire about their ball control and recycling. But they were barely challenged.

The Blues scraped in their first points courtesy of a try from hardworking replacement Lachie Munro well into the second half. He bagged a second on fulltime.

Around those mini-moments, the Blues suffered more indignities with Benson Stanley concussed early and Tony Woodcock hyper-extending his right elbow.

Piri Weepu had little good ball or influence in his 45 minutes before he was subbed; Ali Williams mouthed in major but performed in minor before he was rested after 65 minutes.

Injuries have scarred the Blues this season but the Highlanders have suffered wickedly, too, with their casualties and have not quit.

The Blues have shown little fight for much of the season. That was recognised after the second-round loss to the Chiefs when chief executive Andy Dalton, unusually, was moved to criticise the team standards. Nothing much has changed since then.

Ten defeats and two wins continues the Blues worst run in Super 15 history with four matches left before they can really quit.

Many appear as though they have already packed it in. There is a lack of collective grit mixed with bouts of petulance which indicate their frustration and lack of ability.

The second-tier of players are not up to the required standards and next year's coach and his crew face a massive restoration project.

It's possible. Evidence of that lies just south with the Chiefs.

But the culling should not start and stop with the Blues staff and players.

The administration, board members and franchise strategists have been equally culpable in a Blues decline since their last title in 2003. They have chosen the staff, and set the directions and the parameters.

Will anyone walk the plank except the Blues staff? There's more chance of this disastrous team winning the New Zealand conference.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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