This match against the Force, one of Super Rugby's perennial battlers, presented the Blues with an ideal platform on which to put in a quality 80-minute performance.

Instead, in the warm sunshine on a beautiful afternoon in front of a crowd of 17,000 at Eden Park, we got a performance which sums up the Blues' season thus far - patches of quality interspersed with a fair bit of dross. There was little sign of the ruthless attitude that they showed in the second half of their victory against the Bulls at North Harbour last week, and frankly, it was time to see some progress.

Remarkably, this game was still in the balance in the 65th minute before replacement midfielder Rieko Ioane finished off a sweeping movement with a try under the posts.

The Blues were guilty of giving up too many turnovers and throwing too many poor passes. A victory was a non-negotiable against a team with only one win this season; the bonus point was earned in the 73rd minute thanks to fullback Michael Collins' try and given up again four minutes later when Dane Haylett-Petty scored and in truth coach Tana Umaga will be disappointed that they didn't take all five competition points.


It was a sloppy finish for them and they could rue the loss of the point. Openside flanker Murphy Taramai was over for the Blues in the final minute but his try was disallowed.

Halfback Augustine Pulu was again one of the Blues' best players, Taramai worked hard throughout, and right wing Matt Duffie was again one of the home side's sharpest attacking weapons, scoring one try and being unlucky to miss another due to George Moala's forward pass.

Significantly, it was one of loose forward Akira Ioane's best games of the season. Entering the match after 25 minutes after an injury to Jimmy Tupou, Ioane impressed with his workrate and discipline, two areas where he has let himself down occasionally.

Here he was engaged throughout and will be better for the run after figuring only as an impact player recently.

Umaga's men are still in the playoff mix - this win took them to eighth on the table - although they will almost certainly be overtaken once the round is completed.

Were there significant improvements after an up-and-down start to the season? Not really. The Force defended well at times after taking an early lead, and showed signs of the obdurate approach they took against the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend, but they were fairly limited on attack.

The Blues, who came home with a wet sail against the Bulls at Albany last week, threatened to cut loose again at the end only to let themselves down with a lack of focus and discipline, a recurring theme, unfortunately.

The good sized crowd were entertained, but as they left once the sun began setting they must have been wondering what could have been.