6 May

Blowin' the Blues away
by Rob Wallace
6 May 2002

With one game to go, the Blues managed to come up with a fitting finale to their season losing 13-20 to the Highlanders, and giving the Highlanders their first S12 win at Eden Park and the first by any Otago team for 26 years. The worst thing is, the Highlanders did little special – they kicked for territory, minimised any mistakes and made their tackles while waiting for the Blues to choke under the pressure.

And they did. The Blues produced yet another dismal first half – error-ridden, patternless and devoid of structure. The Highlanders merely D’ed up, held their lines, attacked the ball in the tackle area and kicked the inevitable penalty when it came.

Later in the game, and with Tony Brown now off the field, the Blues did gain some ascendancy, but even then they made poor options. Taylor kept ignoring the shots at goal when they were 7 behind in favour of a try – but hey – 2 points was never going to be enough to gain a semi-final place – they would have been much better taking the 3 or 6 and hoping to get lucky with a last minute try.

Overall, it was hard not to feel the Blues got what they deserved – despite the talent they failed to impose their patterns on the game and were hustled off the ball by a smart Otago team. Mains 1, Sloane 0.

Game of the weekend was the Hurricanes-Crusaders clash. The Canes played well but a Canterbury squad, even resting key players, showed us all how big the gap is between the top of NZ rugby and the rest as they thrashed the Hurricanes. I though the Canes played pretty well but this is a very special Crusaders team and it will be a big surprise if they lose again this season, with all their games at home.

As for the Blues – they blew it – and despite the mathematical chances they have, in reality their season is over. It’s interesting, that despite the 4th coach in 4 years, and a huge injection of new players from NH and Northland, the same old problems reappeared, and it’s hard not to think, especially when you look at the Crusaders and the Highlanders, that having 1 (decent) team NPC team per S12 franchise is a real advantage in terms of continuity and cohesion.

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