After a strong start to the season, the Blues are heading back to the drawing board.
Following their 15-12 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday night, the Auckland side fell to a 2-2 record for the season to fall back in line with the chasing pack.
There were a number of areas to critique for coach Leon MacDonald after the last-minute loss, with the scrum out-muscled by the Chiefs, and plenty of instances where they turned down the opportunity to kick at goal.
"In tight games, you should accumulate points when you can," MacDonald said of not taking the points on offer.
"It was a call made on the field by the leaders. From the box, we were pretty happy to go to the posts but they felt they wanted to try get into the game. Sometimes you've got to back your feel and often that's what they're doing out there. We have to respect that."
The Blues managed to crash over for the first points of the game through Akira Ioane, but for the most part the first half was a scrappy affair. The Chiefs had the better of the play for much of the game, and imposed themselves at the scum, despite the All Black-laden front row of the Blues, to the point where MacDonald rotated both props and a lock at halftime.
"We weren't happy with what we were seeing in the first half so we wanted some guys to come on who would spark us and make a difference. Tom Robinson has done that nearly every time without fail. He's brought a lot of energy.
"We wanted a bit more from the bench to try change that momentum and get our game going. Overall we'd like to play a lot better than we did.
"We struggled to hold the ball and made a lot of fundamental errors like handling, and we were a bit wonky at the set piece again and unable to get our game going."
The game was decided by a last-minute try to Damian McKenzie, who went over at the end of a passage of play that included a marginal offload from Luke Jacobson in the build-up. The play was reviewed and the call stood – a drone shot confirming the pass was legal.
MacDonald had no complaints about the ending.
"Things like captain's challenges or when you bring the ref into play late in the game - that's your own fault, because we had a lot of opportunities in the first half to take some points or score points through our play and we weren't good enough to take them."