Blues 38 Bulls 14

It wasn't quick, it wasn't clinical, it wasn't particularly impressive but it was hugely important in the context of their season that the Blues beat the Bulls and took a bonus point in the process.

They have stopped the rot. They are no longer sliding into oblivion and that matters. Another loss and the Blues would have been halfway down the plughole with not much grip left.

But to their credit they found a way to break a Bulls side that really didn't have much to offer but steely resistance. And they did break them. By the end, the Blues were running hot, scoring at will and doing plenty to bury the awkwardness of the earlier part of the game.

There's an argument to be made that it should be a given that the Blues beat moderate sides from South Africa in Auckland, but it never has been before. History is full of nights where the Blues should have, but didn't so this was a breakthrough of sorts.


And it came because they stuck at it. They didn't turn their back on their gameplan. What they did was finally find some cohesion and accuracy.

They were patient and got their rewards. A little more space opened for them midway through the second half and with that, and a little bit of magic from Matt Duffie, they were able to score some tries and build their confidence.

Once they got into their groove later in the game and controlled the ball, moved it into the right places and were more direct, they started to look good.

Much better at least and maybe, if they can keep their game at that sort of level, they could end up close to where they want to be by the end of the season.

What wasn't so great was that it took them the better part of 50 minutes to splutter all the nonsense rugby out of their system. In fact, it should be said that it was a long, painful 50 minutes where the Blues were loose, lateral and predictable.

Their rugby was lacking something. There was no control, no punch. No sense of urgency or conviction about where they should be heading and why.

The forwards weren't able to graft too far over the gainline. Which was no surprise. It's never easy to do that against South African sides. The Bulls have predictably big men in their ranks and they don't bend much in the collision. They don't really bend at all and the Blues couldn't get much in the way of go-forward in the middle of the field.

They hardly helped their cause with yet more sloppy ball retention. It's been the unwanted theme of their season - they have spilled too much ball in contact. Precision was also a problem at the lineout.

Not for the duration of the game but, irritatingly so for the Blues, it was those key moments that they failed to nail.

Cue their problems. Their game became static and hesitant, with both Augustine Pulu and Piers Francis never quite sure of what strings to pull and when. It's the usual way of things when there is no momentum and no holes to run at.

By the final 20 minutes, it was all so different. The Blues went forward, the game flowed and the tries came.

Blues 38 (A. Pulu, M. Duffie (2), I. West, M. Moulds, M. Nanai tries; P. Francis 2 cons; I. West 2 cons)
Bulls 14 (L. Gqoboka, R. Paige tries; H. Pollard con; C.Schoeman con)
Halftime: 7-7