First, congratulations to the Sunwolves - what a marvelous, spirited and brave performance that was against the Blues in the blazing Tokyo heat.

This remarkable 48-21 victory was only their third in two full seasons of Super Rugby and will easily rank as their best. And they should have won by more. They blew several other try-scoring opportunities in the second half as the Blues succumbed to a perfect storm of Jerome Kaino's yellow card - his second in two matches for high tackles - and their own rank incompetence.

Up 21-14 at halftime, after the break the Blues played with all the fluency and skill of a bunch of blokes who had never met each other before. It was an extraordinary meltdown and what a terrible way to see off Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua, two club stalwarts who deserved better than this.

Nothing can take away from the Blues' achievement in beating the British and Irish Lions recently, but this defeat will tarnish their season. The most worrying thing from coach Tana Umaga's perspective is that apart from the team's failure to make good decisions under pressure, and to maintain their skill levels, they appeared to lack the stomach for the fight.


Apart from farewelling Faumuina, Luatua and Ihaia West and maintaining their professional standards despite the fact they had missed out on the playoffs, there was little for the Blues to play for and Umaga hinted during the week that a lack of motivation among some of his players had been a factor in his team selection.

It was an astute observation. His players, who until this point had appeared to have responded to him in his second year at the franchise, clearly thought they could run over the top of the competition easy-beats and they fell apart when the home side failed to follow the script. The way the home side's loyal supporters at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium roared their team home was reminiscent of Japan's supporters willing their side to their famous World Cup victory over South Africa in 2015.

For Umaga, this result is a stark illustration of how much work is needed still to mould this franchise into a consistently high-performing outfit, one that can grind out victories anywhere at any stage of the season, whether or not there is anything riding on the result.

If hope is the killer for the Blues' supporters, the inconsistency of their team is a constant wounding niggle. Only a few weeks ago they turned a match against the Lions on its head at Eden Park with a marvelous performance filled with courage and skill, and yet, in their next match, they looked like a bunch of amateurs.

It should be a long and quiet journey back to Auckland for Umaga and his team. This defeat, surely the worst in the history of a franchise which has won three Super Rugby titles, will take some getting over. Now is the time for self reflection and a determination for such a performance to never happen again.

10 of the Blues' worst defeats
1996 - Reds 51 Blues 13
2004 - Blues 23 Stormers 51
2006 - Waratahs 43 Blues 9
2009 - Bulls 59 Blues 26
2009 - Chiefs 63 Blues 34
2012 - Crusaders 59 Blues 12
2015 - Rebels 42 Blues 22
2015 - Blues 7 Highlanders 44
2016 - Lions 43 Blues 5
2017 - Sunwolves 48 Blues 21