Late in the first half of this match, after about the millionth mistake by the Blues and before Matt Duffie's two superbly taken tries, thoughts inevitably turned to the team's nightmare at the hands of another South Africa outfit, the Lions, almost exactly two years ago.

In that game, a significant one for team legend Keven Mealamu, who was celebrating his 163rd Super Rugby fixture, a record, the Blues were in control but somehow lost it 13-10 after putting in one of the most disappointing performances during Sir John Kirwan's tenure.

Those looking at the final score against the Bulls probably can't imagine it, but things were heading that way tonight. The error rate from Tana Umaga's men was off the charts, and with the score locked at 7-7 at halftime there were a few nervous faces in the crowd, and, possibly, in the home team's coaches' box.

A defeat here would have been unacceptable and quite disastrous for the rest of the season. On three successive defeats, another would have hurt the team badly in terms of their collective mental state, never mind the points table.


After the quality of Augustine Pulu's try after three minutes - the lead up to which fullback Michael Collins handled the ball twice - there was mostly dross from the Blues for the rest of the half.

Rather than running into space they ran into the opposition, and these men from Pretoria are not small. Despite the dry conditions on a calm night on Auckland's North Shore, they dropped ball after ball.

And yet, their heads didn't drop. They stuck at it, kept pushing passes, kept running, and in the end the breakthrough came - right wing Duffie palming off a defender after more good work from the dependable Collins and slicing through the defence on an angled run to the line, and then taking a kick-pass from Piers Francis to score another. At that point it was 19-7 and effectively game over.

The Bulls defended well in the first half but all that defending eventually took its toll. And as for attack, they didn't have a lot apart from their lineout drive, as expected.

The Blues badly needed a win, any sort, to get back on track. That they did it with a flourish in the second half which turned up a bonus point was both unexpected and extremely welcome for them and their supporters.

They're back to Eden Park next weekend against the struggling Force. A win there might just have them dreaming of bigger and better things.