Patience proved to be the virtue the self-righteous say it is for the Blues yesterday, with their huff and puff eventually blowing the Bulls’ house down.
Gregor Paul writes in the NZ Herald that it wasn’t the kind of win, though, that should have anyone thinking about hanging out the bunting. It was another lucky escape for the Blues.
They were clinging on in the final quarter, obviously rattled by the intensity of the Bulls’ defence and the speed and brilliance of Bryan Habana who was an almighty handful.
The Springbok had the Blues running scared and no one in the home side had a cunning plan about how to sit the feisty wing on the seat of his pants and encourage him to mind his own beeswax.
Nor did the Blues do much of a job in halting Zane Kirchner, the lively Bulls fullback who would have won the game for his side in the last five minutes if his chip and chase had bounced more kindly.
It was kind of hard to fathom that the Bulls were doing all the incisive running in the closing stages, trusting their safe handling and solid running to bring them the necessary points. Meanwhile, it was the Blues who tightened up and shock of shocks, won it with a Nick Evans drop goal.
Yes, as hard as it is to believe… New Zealand teams do know about dropping goals. Evans quite calmly dropped into the pocket and slotted a 30m goal to push the score out to 23-21.
Those three points gave the Blues the win and the four points they needed to remain very much in contention.
But the table shouldn’t be trusted as a true indicator of who is in the frame to make the playoffs.
Where once the Blues looked like championship material, now they look like a side who will be in the mix without ever convincing anyone they deserve to be.
For that to change, they need to find some cohesion and fluidity as yesterday they again appeared to be missing some vital ingredient.
The flow, the swagger and the lethal mix of structure and instinct were never quite there. They reverted back to relying too heavily on instinct but the polish wasn’t quite there.
When they indulge in the high risk/high reward rugby, the skills have to be sharp, the execution clinical.
Even with Evans back in the No 10 jersey they never quite strung it all together. There is a glitch affecting much of their work at crucial times. Still, despite the best efforts of the coaching staff, iffy passes get thrown.
A perfect case in point being Troy Flavell’s reverse no-look pass immediately after Derick Kuun’s 65th minute try which put the Bulls 21-20 ahead.
It drives more than just the coaches mad, so many good players insist on making passes when they are never really on and also that the handling was irritatingly sloppy at precisely the time it needed to be supremely accurate.
There is no question that the Bulls too did their bit in making life tough. Their work on the road had been woeful prior to meeting the Blues and it was apparent that there had been a bit of a get-together during the week with words exchanged.
Their energy levels were up way beyond where they were last week against the Chiefs and their defensive effort was massive.
The big units didn’t hold back and the Blues just couldn’t get over the ball at the collision.
And without that vital momentum, they became a little ragged behind the scrum. There was a sense of over-eagerness that saw the runners get in each other’s way, while at other times they got too flat, guilty of taking the ball standing still and relying on individual magic to get things going.
As is the way with the Blues, the individual magic can often be their saviour. Benson Stanley was lively in that regard, making some strong breaks and Evans was brave in the way he never stopped tilting his lance in the hope it would spear the fringe defence.
But the Blues need more than a few individuals being on top of their game. Collective spirit and unity need to be rediscovered as the game this week against the Waratahs is looming as the pivotal 80 minutes in the Blues’ season.Tweet