2010 Super 14 Season Review: Blues
It was a case of so close yet so far for the Blues, who finished the year in seventh position and took some high-profile scalps yet fell to opponents which realistically a team of such attacking calibre should have easily accounted for.
But for all the apparent doom and gloom associated with the mixed form of the New Zealand teams throughout the 2010 season, the Blues, like the Hurricanes, only finished one bonus point win outside of semifinal participation.
Yet the enigmatic team really showcased the lack of consistency that did hamstring the kiwi sides throughout the year, with the Blues looking like title contenders one game, but often losing their subsequent encounter, never to record better than a two-match winning streak.
On occasions, it was a harking back to the glory days of the three-time champions, with the Blues running rampant with an attack that no side could contain when switched on.
Yet promisingly they also showed multiple facets to their game, so emphatically highlighted in the Ballymore rain in week three when they shut down a Reds team that was embarking on their best season in nearly a decade.
If the Blues year could be summed up with just one player, it would be Rene Ranger.
The dynamic back at his peak was unstoppable, introducing fearsome power running and line breaking ability that the team fed off and attacked with wild abandon as a consequence.
Yet Ranger, like his team, was inconsistent at times and combination of mixed vision and basic skills conspired to let him down. The final game of the season saw Ranger early take the ball and run to setup a four to one overlap against the Chiefs, and instead of scoring, the ball harmlessly floated into touch.
If the Blues had dotted one or two more “I’s” and crossed a few more “T’s” they would have been a fearsome presence in the top four, and would be contesting only their third semifinal in the last decade.
In this, it truly did seem that the Blues did have their tactics and strategy all worked out, but all the entertaining in the world means nothing without consistency, especially over a gruelling and competitive 14-week campaign.
The side truly embraced the attacking philosophy that the games administrators wished to see implemented with the new law interpretations.
But for all of the menace shown by the Blues at times that seemed to almost anoint them as a threat to the championship, they did not have the polish seen by the sides that eventually made the top four.
But the positives were abundant.
If the same ethos is adhered to next year, and the core of the side is kept intact, one could only dream of what the Blues could achieve.
Coach Pat Lam, while disappointed that his side couldn’t make the top four, was enthusiastic about his team’s chances in the new Super 15, confidently proclaiming that his “boys” could go all the way next year.
For while some will negatively state that it is difficult to assess whether the Blues have improved, there is no doubt that from Lam’s perspective only, it is an improvement on his maiden campaign of 2009.
Players too stood up to be counted.
Joe Rokocoko, who many believed may have played his last test in a black jersey, was back to his rampaging best, and he will surely be one of the first wings named in Graham Henry’s first test squad.
Alby Mathewson, who moved up north due to lack of game time, had a vintage season and could well have edged his nose in front of what is a stacked queue of international class scrumhalves in New Zealand rugby.
But it was the form of unsung players at stages of the season, such as front rower Charlie Faumuina and loose forward Viliame Ma’afu that would have warmed the hearts of any New Zealand rugby fan.
To watch those two tear into a Springbok-laden Bulls forward pack to lay the platform for the Blues finest win, beating the top qualifiers 32-17, showed the potential that lies within this side.
We shall eagerly await to see if they can back up their coach's predictions and win the first Super 15 title in little over 12 months time.
Blues 2010 season
Lost Hurricanes 20-34
Beat Highlanders 19-15
Beat Reds 27-18
Lost Crusaders 33-20
Beat Brumbies 39-34
Lost Waratahs 39-32
Beat Bulls 32-17
Lost Stormers 21-33
Beat Force 38-17
Lost Sharks 10-23
Lost Cheetahs 32-26
Beat Lions 56-14
Beat Chiefs 30-20
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