Tana Umaga's worst fears have been confirmed - centre Rene Ranger's season is over due to a ruptured ACL ligament in his left knee.

It is a devastating way for the 29-year-old to end his first season back from France and rules out any hope of a quick return to the All Blacks. Instead, he is looking at a tough six months of rehabilitation, and all this after neck surgery last year which ruled him out of North Harbour's ITM Cup season after he arrived from Montpellier.

The sight of him limping from the Eden Park pitch late in the first half against the Sharks could have been a precursor to a similarly depressing defeat for the Blues, but instead they rallied for a precious 23-18 victory.

The centre suffered the injury when charging into contact just past the half hour mark - something he did time and again and mostly in vain as the Blues sought a way through the watertight Sharks defence.


When his replacement George Moala came on, the score was 11-3 to the visitors, and the Blues, rather than being inspired by the memory of former teammate Kurtis Haiu, who passed away during the week, looked weighed down by the responsibility.

Moala's try shortly after his arrival - a pick and go near the Sharks line - showed his team a direct route was probably the best one, but Rieko Ioane's stunning solo effort from 43 metres with 16 minutes remaining, which Ihaia West converted to give his team a lead they wouldn't give up, proved there was merit in the Blues' traditional attacking instincts, too.

Two crucial lineout steals at the end from Steven Luatua and Akira Ioane, plus West's late penalty, all added up to a positive result for the Blues and coach Umaga.

"I'm very happy with the win," he said. "We haven't done well against the Sharks in recent times. There was a lot of emotion going into the game. First and foremost, recognising the legends of the Blues in teams gone by and the 1996 winning side. And during the week, we lost another Blues brother with Kurtis Haiu passing away.

"We talked long and hard about making sure it wasn't all about emotion. We wanted to do it for them but we couldn't just rely on the memories to get us through.

"I thought we prepared well this week. There was an edge to it. But maybe it was too much, everyone trying to do a lot instead of just focusing. With a young side, that's what they've got to learn - emotion only gets you so far but in the end, we still have to play the game."

Victory for the Blues was crucial following their win over the Jaguares and narrow defeat to the Chiefs in Hamilton. They have a bye next before playing the Rebels at Eden Park and then the Kings, Lions and Force away. With the Crusaders and Hurricanes continuing their good form, the Blues needed to follow suit.

"Since the last bye, we had a goal of getting two out of three," Umaga said. "We got nine points out of three games which is positive for us."

Asked if the performances of the New Zealand teams, who have left the Blues behind in the Kiwi conference, put extra pressure on him and his team, Umaga said: "Being a proud New Zealander, I'm happy the New Zealand teams are going well but, as my wife keeps reminding me, it's not good for us that they're winning, so I might have to curb my patriotism a little bit."

Rene Ranger of the Blues sits injured on the bench during the round eight Super Rugby match. Photo / Getty Images
Rene Ranger of the Blues sits injured on the bench during the round eight Super Rugby match. Photo / Getty Images