Auckland Blues: Could This Be the End of the Pat Lam Era?
Under Pat Lam, the Blues have fielded star-studded teams that were known for underachieving.
Earlier this year, I said that if the Blues don't make the finals this year then Pat Lam must go. Five games into the season, the Blues sit at last place in the New Zealand conference and already have their backs to the wall.
They have room for few losses and need to collect some bonus points if they want to turn their season around. With their current injury crisis, it will be not be an easy task.
The way the Blues have been losing is the cause for concern. They lost to the Crusaders even though they were at home and scored more tries.
The following week, they were outplayed in every facet of the game by the Chiefs in terrible conditions.
They managed to win in Pretoria, but then they followed that with a terrible game against the Stormers, where they gifted them a number of penalties, mainly in the scrum.
When they returned home the following week, they lost at the last minute to the Hurricanes after controlling possession, territory and the scoreboard for most of the game.
The Blues have always had great talent on their roster. Their scrum has always been strong, the second row has always featured All Blacks and they've always had an exciting backline. You could argue that they haven't had a great pivot to lead their backs but any well coached first five should be able to have a decent amount of success with that many weapons at his disposal.
Questionable selections and poor discipline have plagued the Blues throughout Lam's tenure. Just look at the players he has persisted with starting over the years.
Tasesa Lavea was never fit to lead the Blues backline (and clearly not Samoa's backline either); Onosa'i Auva'a, a ball running openside who shied away from the breakdown; Taniela Moa, a powerful ball running halfback who had a habit of box kicking the ball straight to the opposition; and an aging Joe Rokocoko who allowed as many tries as he scored through poor tackling.
Over the last few games, he has stuck with Lachie Munro at fullback, who seems to offer nothing other than goal kicking.
The game against the Stormers was a display of poor coaching. Pauliasi Manu repeatedly put his hand on the ground and was lucky not to get penalized even more than he did. Keven Mealamu's lineout throwing is clearly on the decline. Ben Lam, a regular fullback, allowed a high ball to bounce, which lead to Bryan Habana's try.
Luke Braid's suspension was just the icing on the cake.
Discipline, knowledge of the rules and situational awareness are up to the coach to fix. You wouldn't see the All Blacks committing those kinds of mistakes. Even when Quade Cooper kneed McCaw in the face, he didn't receive anything more a shove (although Brad Thorn shoves pretty hard). Pat Lam had great success in Auckland, but looking back at it now, he had some pretty talented Auckland sides.
Unless Pat Lam can somehow lead these Blues to Super Rugby glory, then he must go. Despite their playoff appearance last year, they have not improved since he took the reins.
Blues fans want to see a return to the top of the mountain, and clearly he hasn't helped that cause.
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