The Blues, disappointed again at their inability to finish off a top side away from home, are now taking a must-win approach to all of their remaining eight round-robin matches this season.

Unfortunately for them perhaps after they came up short in the second half of their 26-20 defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin, their next fixture is against the high-flying Hurricanes, a team with one of the best attacks in the competition.

A small positive is the fact they will be playing at Eden Park but, at the halfway stage of the competition, and the Blues dropping to 10th on the table and the bottom of the New Zealand conference, it is desperation time for a team not playing anywhere near their potential.

It is the promise of hope which must hurt their supporters the most. They looked like a different side to the one which stuttered past the lowly Force when they raced to a 20-10 lead against the southerners thanks to an attacking edge provided by halfback Augustine Pulu, wing Matt Duffie and fullback Michael Collins which lead to tries to prop Charlie Faumuina and lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.


But once the pressure came on in the second half, their set piece wilted and the turnovers came. There was even a negative to be found in Sonny Bill Williams' late stunning break and offload to prop Sam Prattley. A pass from Prattley to one of the two unmarked players outside him would have resulted in a try and potentially a different result. Instead, Prattley went into contact and the chance was lost.

They have the players to do far better, but for whatever reason, can't put it all together. Lose to the Hurricanes and with a bye to come straight afterwards and only two other home matches in the schedule, it would be hard to see them breaking into the top eight.

There was no hiding assistant coach Steve Jackson's disappointment when he told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch: "We have to win every game from now on and we haven't spoken about that but if you're sitting at the breakfast table at the moment and you're reading the paper and seeing where we are sitting [on the table], that's the mathematical thing we have to do.

"We can't rely on other teams knocking off the Kiwi teams for us... we've got to go out there with a mindset of playing for 80 minutes. We know we can do it, we've just got believe in what we're doing."

The Blues have won three from seven so far this season, their victories coming against the Rebels, Bulls and Force. Against the competition's lesser teams they can occasionally look ruthless, but they struggle to match the consistent intensity that the New Zealand derby matches require and another negative is that they have to play the Chiefs again this season.

Jackson added of the performance against the Highlanders: "We played some good football... coming out of halftime we were really aware that the Highlanders would come hard at us because that's what the local derbies are about. We just can't seem to finish it off and hold on to our ball.

"We had every opportunity in the world to probably win that game but again some silly decisions and then obviously some of our own mistakes kept them in the game and then ultimately let them get away with it.

"We spoke about the Highlanders and even the other New Zealand teams - how they thrive on turnover ball and opposition mistakes. The more we give these teams opportunities to counter-attack or have a crack the worse off we're going to be."

Blues' remaining fixtures:
Hurricanes (h)
Brumbies (a)
Waratahs (a)
Cheetahs (h)
Stormers (a)
Chiefs (h)
Reds (Apia)
Sunwolves (a)