If Stephen Donald had any chance o' />
There's little pleasure in watching any player disintegrate, and even less when he happens to be an All Black.
If Stephen Donald had any chance of making the World Cup squad before last night - and it's unlikely he did - it disappeared in his opening 20 minutes against the Blues.
It started when he overcooked the kickoff and continued as he missed two easy penalty kicks from in front of goal, kicked a chip well over the intended target as well as the touch judge, threw two forward passes (one dreadfully so) and heaved another over the sideline with the Chiefs in a promising position. It was horrible and left many thanking the rugby gods for Dan Carter.
Donald is a confidence player.
If he starts poorly, like he did last night, it can prey on his mind. He struggles to put mistakes behind him - the mark of a good player - and allows it to affect how he plays the rest of the game.
The All Blacks coaches have shown considerable patience with him in the past - he has played 21 tests- but they can't afford to select him as Carter's backup.
World Cups are won and lost on the slightest of mistakes and as good as Donald can be, like the way he propelled the Chiefs to an unlikely win over the Stormers last month, he is too inconsistent. Few will forget his meltdown against Australia in Hong Kong last year.
Donald recovered, and nailed a stupendously good conversion from the sideline into the breeze to convert Tana Umaga's first try of his Super Rugby rebirth. He also nailed a long-range kick that gave his side crucial breathing space with three minutes left, but the damage had been done. It's difficult to change first impressions.
What effect it had on the All Blacks coaches is something only they will know but the Three Wise Men might have left Eden Park more than a little confused.
There were many World Cup hopefuls on display and few did their chances that much good in a messy match. Mils Muliaina was incisive and decisive, Richard Kahui strong and sound and Liam Messam powerful and purposeful. But many others combined good moments with too many poor.
Luke McAlister could well snaffle the backup No 10 jersey - although Colin Slade remains a serious contender despite his lack of action this season - but did little to convince last night. Often it wasn't his fault as the Blues struggled to maintain any sort of possession in the opening half. He followed up two successful kicks at goal (one from 55m) with three misses from in front of the sticks, albeit from distance and in difficult conditions.
He's actually been one of the better goalkickers in the competition, kicking at better than 70 per cent, but lost his rhythm last night and hooked two badly and sliced another. McAlister's not a natural first five-eighths and it comes across like he knows it. He rarely took the line on, largely preferring to shuffle it on, but was sound defensively down the inside channels. He was dragged with 10 minutes remaining for Stephen Brett.
Last night's result was always the most important thing, especially for the Blues, but it was all done with the spectre of the World Cup hanging over it.
Like the result in that tournament, the prospects of a number of players are still uncertain.