Blues head coach Pat Lam conceded little errors, ball security and indiscipline at crucial stages of the match cost his side an invaluable victory against the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday night.
The Blues came out firing to blitz the Crusaders off the park in the opening 20 minutes, scoring two tries to race out to a 12-3 lead.
Playing at electric pace, Rudi Wulf, Isaia Toeava and Rene Ranger in particular all carved up the Crusaders defence and created plenty of opportunities, but ball security proved to be the Blues’ undoing as the dewy ball was knocked from their grasp in the tackle or last passes went astray.
Discipline was also a major contributor to the Blues’ downfall, with rookie Crusaders first five-eighths Tyler Bleyendaal slotting four penalties to give his side the win.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with the loss,” Lam said.
“We got off to a very good start and in the first 20 minutes particularly we played some good rugby. But in the last 20 minutes of the first half, a combination of lost possession, some indiscipline and some calls allowed them back into the game.
“There was a mistake in defence which allowed them to score their try and the second half was a real ding dong battle. It was a bit of dÈj‡ vu from last year and it was always going to come down to a small moment and unfortunately this year we ended up on the wrong side of the ledger.
“There were some close calls there but all-in-all at this time of the year I thought the intensity was there but for us it’s just about looking after the pill. We’ve got to go away and look at the video and some of the discipline and the penalties we gave away.”
The lineout was also an area of concern for Lam, as far too often the Blues found themselves in an attacking position only for the ball to be turned over from the throw in.
“It’s been good right through the pre-season and obviously there were tricky conditions out there but we probably put too much pressure on ourselves and they did well, they challenged hard,” he said.
“At half time the boys talked about making a couple of changes and we started to come back there but certainly it was not up to our normally high standard and it’s an area we’ll have to look at next week.”
Captain Keven Mealamu echoed his coach’s sentiment, ruing small errors and a misfiring lineout as contributing factors to his side’s defeat.
“You always want to start with a win and I thought we put in enough effort to do that,” Mealamu said.
“It was just a couple of little things that let us down. We need to look at our lineout, it was a bit rusty tonight and they put some good pressure on there but we’ll get better, and also little things around the ruck.
“If we can look after the ball better against teams like the Crusaders we can build more pressure and we did that well in the first half, especially with our defence, we put some good pressure on them and we just need to make sure we keep it on for 80 minutes.”
The Blues have to regroup as they face an injury ravaged Chiefs outfit who will be also desperate to score a win after losing their opening match to the Highlanders 19-23.