The Blues have a week off now to prod and poke themselves to see if they can find any semblance of life left in their 2012 campaign. It's hard to believe that they do - no real hope of achieving the ambitious goal they set of surpassing last year's achievement of reaching the semifinals.

Sport is full of wonderful stories of teams beating the odds to be crowned champions. It's not likely the Blues will write such a chapter - the best they can hope for now is that they miraculously hit a winning streak and claw their way to mid-table respectability by May. Maybe, who knows, if they hit the jackpot they might flirt with the playoffs, but that really seems fantasy territory right now.

The truth that they must face, is that they have made the worst start in the Blues' history and are all but gone. Even Pat Lam's indestructible optimism was nowhere seen to be on Friday night.

He had the look of a man who knew it was all over - that his future now lies on foreign fields a long way from Eden Park.


On one level it was easy to feel his pain; the Blues have been savaged by injuries, more cruelly and dramatically than any of their New Zealand peers. Then there was the drama he had just witnessed unfold - to be six points up on 79 minutes and lose by a point, that's heartbreak territory.

But it was heartbreak that could have been avoided. Never mind that Piri Weepu decided to kick the ball away aimlessly in the last minute, or the madness of Lachie Munro earlier in the game to gift an easy try to Cory Jane; or Weepu's ineffective tackling; or Ma'a Nonu's strange desire to kick rather than run. The biggest crime of all was to leave the door open the way they did: leading 25-19 with 10 minutes remaining, the Blues had the Hurricanes scrambling - especially after Benson Stanley had kicked deep into opposition territory.

The best sides would have reasoned that the priority was to push the lead to nine - which would require the Hurricanes to score twice. The chance was there for Michael Hobbs to slip in the pocket, demand the ball and take the drop goal. It was never even considered, the Blues rumbled through the forwards and lost possession.

That one incident alludes to the dark future of the Blues. The tactical awareness and clinical edge just aren't there. Their accuracy and clarity have vanished and their season is doomed without them.

Maybe it is no wonder the players are a little vague - that certainty of vision isn't coming through from the coaches in terms of the teams they select. It's almost too dull to have to ponder once again why there is endless rotation through the critical 8, 9, 10 axis. A serious injury to Alby Mathewson may in fact be a blessing - it will force Weepu into halfback where he looked so much better.

It will cut the options at No 10 to just Gareth Anscombe and Hobbs. Brad Mika surely proved he wasn't able to play No 8 at this level - he was a ghost, toiling with the pace and a man of his size really can't be expected to offer much on the ground, scrapping for the ball.

Consistency of selection builds confidence and that is what the Blues will need when they return from their bye to take on the Rebels next Thursday.

"The thing is for us, as a group we have got to bounce back and we will," said Lam. "We get a bye now and we get a chance to re-group - we have picked up a few more injuries - and we get a couple of days [to rest]. Then it is all about getting back on the horse and going again. I am confident that we will do that as a team."

The one rock upon which the Blues can clamber is their scrum. Tony Woodcock made an immediate impact on his return and with Keven Mealamu expected to be fit to play the Rebels and possibly Anthony Boric, there is one platform on which they can build. Hope hasn't been extinguished but it is barely flickering. The Blues have little or no margin of error left. They have to play the high-flying Highlanders twice, take on the Crusaders in Christchurch and deal with the Reds.

A few of the current leaders will hit turbulence and struggle but the Blues already have an enormous amount of ground to make up.