Blues coach Tana Umaga will likely take a close look at his key decision makers, including first-five Ihaia West, ahead of his team's next match against the Crusaders after an overall performance against the Highlanders which veered between lacklustre and downright reckless.

The Blues' big opening win over the Rebels seems a long time ago now. On the back of their defeat to the Chiefs in Hamilton, the Blues were error-ridden and directionless in their first game of the season at Eden Park - a 16-12 defeat - and now must accept that changes are necessary in order to prevent an early and hopeless slide into a dark hole.

The Crusaders will have returned from Brisbane from their miraculous 22-20 victory over the Reds with a mounting casualty list but bolstered self belief. Fullback Israel Dagg and wing Seta Tamanivalu are unlikely to be available for the match at AMI Stadium on Friday due to leg injuries, but another come-from-behind victory suggests they have the ability to cope just fine.

After their fightback against the Highlanders in Dunedin a week earlier, the Crusaders trailed 17-0, and then 20-7 before two tries from replacement halfback Bryn Hall, a former Blues player, gave first-five Mitch Hunt the chance to win it with the last kick of the game and he duly slotted the penalty after the final siren.


His counterpart at the Blues, West, however, did not have such a good evening, and Umaga suggested afterwards that Piers Francis could be given an opportunity in the No10 jersey.

Francis' arrival for the final quarter coincided with a reversal of momentum for the Blues, who should have won it at the end given their possession and territorial advantage but for some ferocious Highlanders' defending and yet more errors from the home side.

"We had more ball too and we looked after it a lot better," Umaga said of his team's finish. "Piers has been wanting to play No10 and he got an opportunity. He played well. There will be some hard decisions going forward as there always are selection-wise."

The fitness of tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina, a late withdrawal from the starting line-up after his back went into spasm, will also be a factor this week, but it was unlikely to be the reason behind why the Blues' lineout went into freefall. They lost five lineouts on their own throw, with returning hooker James Parsons struggling to find his mark, and gave up a whopping 24 turnovers in total.

Unable to build pressure, their main strike weapon Rieko Ioane, who scored a hat-trick of tries against the Rebels in Melbourne, didn't get the ball in his hands enough and the Blues lurched from one mistake to the next.

"We just couldn't get anything going," Umaga said. "We've got to find ways to get our own ball. It's not as if we didn't work on it during the week."

One player to enhance his reputation was halfback Augustine Pulu, who probably got the better of his Highlanders and All Black opposite Aaron Smith.

Pulu was increasingly dangerous with the ball in the second half despite receiving a finger in his left eye in the first half which left him with blurry vision.

"We've got to be better at taking those opportunities," Pulu said. "We've got to focus on our game plan and execute that. It's nothing major but once we click we'll be hard to stop.

"Our set piece wasn't at its best today, but we're heading in the right direction. The only way is up."