The Blues’ playoff prospects suffered a serious setback as they crashed to a disappointing 13-20 defeat to the Brumbies at Eden Park tonight.
The Blues put their worst 40 minutes of rugby this season behind them to spark into life in the second half, but they couldn’t reel in the Brumbies who snapped a two match losing streak to maintain their position at the top of the Australian conference.
The result, the Blues’ second successive defeat, leaves them in third position on the New Zealand conference ladder and perilously close of falling out of the top six after the other weekend’s games are played.
With a torrential downpour hammering Eden Park in the lead up to tonight’s match, the Blues decided to warm up inside, but they came out the colder of the two sides in the first quarter as the Brumbies took control of the game.
It took just one minute for Brumbies second five-eighths Christian Lealiifano to get his team on the scoreboard with a penalty kick before Matt Toomua appeared to cross for the visitors moments later.
Chris Noakes tried to feed a grubber kick through but it ricocheted off a Brumbies player, and Toomua then hacked it ahead and dived on it over the line, however the TMO adjudged Toomua to be in an offside position and the try was denied.
Playing a far superior kicking game in the wet, the Brumbies continued to apply the pressure and were rewarded with a successful penalty kick after 16 minutes.
It was sloppy stuff from the Blues who looked rudderless in the rain and unable to retain possession, and when the ball spat out of their ruck, sniping halfback Nic White was on hand to kick it through and dive on it to score.
Luke Braid appeared to have hit back for the home side when he barged his way over the line but he was deemed to have been held up as a rare try scoring opportunity went begging.
Trailing 14-nill, Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan ripped into his side with a verbal barrage at half time and it seemed to have done the trick as they made a vastly improved start to the second half.
The Blues should really have scored in the corner, but a deliberate knock by wing Joe Tomane down stifled their opportunity.
Chris Noakes finally got his team on the scoresheet with a penalty kick after 44 minutes before Rene Ranger turned defence into attack to score a superb try.
After Ranger folded Brumbies halfback Nic White in half with a monstrous tackle which received the biggest cheer of the evening, the Blues hit the switch.
George Moala and Francis Saili combined to get the Blues into an attacking position, before Piri Weepu produced a lovely show and go and offloaded to Ranger who beat four players on the way to the try line.
However that was about all excitement the Blues could muster.
Lealiifano and Baden Kerr traded penalty kicks before Lealiifano pushed the Brumbies out to a 20-13 lead in the closing stages of the game.
The Blues now face the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday night.