The Jaguares have consigned the Blues to their third defeat of the season with a performance based on a near unbreachable defence in Buenos Aires today.
A late Dalton Papalii try created some excitement among the Blues, who were playing a day after the news broke about the sudden death of Blues prop Mike Tamoaieta, and the visitors mounted a furious attack – really their first of the match – in the final three minutes.
A scrum penalty five metres out with the final hooter gone saw them pack down another set piece, but there was to be no fairytale finish at the Jose Amalfitani Stadium.
Given their travels from South Africa and emotional state after learning of the death of their 23-year-old, it was probably a credit to them that they got so close.
And almost inevitably, there was another refereeing controversy, with South African Rasta Rasivhenge first awarding and then ruling out a try for Blues prop Ofa Tuungafasi. Rasivhenge, in a good position, said he saw the ball grounded on the line but had a quick change of mind when he saw a replay on the big screen. And even the way the final scrum ended will leave to some head-scratching among the Blues coaching staff.
With the ball appearing to pop out and a Jaguares player going off his feet and effectively sealing off possession, another penalty could have been awarded to the Blues, but it wasn't to be and they are now 0-3 for the season with a potentially difficult match against the Sunwolves at North Harbour next Saturday to come.
It is another difficult one to swallow for the Blues, who found their attacking inspiration far too late in the match. They were poor in Durban last weekend and lacked spark and inspiration today, with former All Black Ma'a Nonu clearly not at his best in the midfield.
Two Otere Black penalty misses were also costly, and the Blues failed to take advantage of a now predictable yellow card late in the first half to lock Tomas Lavanini, who hit an unsuspecting Tom Robinson with no arms.
Both teams were so risk averse in the first 35 minutes that it appeared the match was progressing in slow motion. They were both crying out for a bit of creativity from their inside backs but instead it was a safety-first, crash-and-bash style straight out of a Northern Hemisphere winter.
That's until the Jaguares had a burst of inspiration with halftime approaching. Clearly recognising that something different was required to break down a good Blues defence, a quick penalty tap spread wide had the visitors scrambling and, while Augustine Pulu did back to apparently snuff out the danger, a poor clearing kick found wing Ramiro Moyano, who got to the tryline far too easily.
Another Moyano try down the left in the second half put the Jaguares well in control, and they seemed set for an easy win when Julian Montoya went over in the corner.
But Papalii's converted try which came out of nowhere sparked the Blues and created an intensity for both teams that had been sorely missed for most of the match.
Unfortunately for them it came far too late. The realistic challenge for the Blues is now not to win the New Zealand conference but to see if they can finish above the Chiefs, who, remarkably, are also 0-3 for the season after their shock loss to the Sunwolves in Hamilton.
Jaguares 23 (Ramiro Moyano 2, Julian Montoya tries; Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 2 pens, con)
Blues 19 (Dalton Papalii try; Otere Black 4 pens, con)