The pain continues for the Blues as they were defeated 23-29 by the Sharks at Eden Park on Friday night.
The loss, their fourth in a row and sixth in seven matches, has all but extinguished any glimmer of hope the Blues might have had of reaching the playoffs as they remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the New Zealand Conference.
With an improved lineout, a solid game plan and a better attitude in defence, the Blues looked a far more polished unit in the first half and dominated both possession and territory as they looked to put an end to their disappointing run of form.
But two intercept tries put a severe dent in their confidence and willingness to spin the ball wide as the Blues effectively gifted the game to the Sharks through their errors.
The first came from Benson Stanley when the Blues were hot on attack as Sharks captain Keegan Daniel read the inside pass superbly to pluck the ball out of the air and charge 50 metres downfield before being pulled down by a desperate Gareth Anscombe tackle.
But the 88kg first five-eighths couldn’t stop bullocking lock Steven Sykes from crashing over from close range as the Sharks took a 5-0 lead after just four minutes.
Returning from injury, young prodigy Patrick Lambie slotted a penalty goal to extend the lead to 8-0 with a quarter of an hour gone before another intercept pass gave the Sharks a second opportune try.
This time is was Sharks hooker Craig Burden who latched onto the loose pass from Chris Lowrey and showed why he came through the ranks as a back, turning on the afterburners to race 60 metres untouched for the try.
The Blues found themselves with plenty of opportunities to score themselves as Rene Ranger and Rudi Wulf both busted tackles, but sloppy individual errors once again cost them dearly.
However when the Blues managed to win a tighthead scrum, theforwards muscled up superbly and Tony Woodcock burrowed his way over for the try.
Anscombe’s conversion, earlier penalty goal and a drop goal just before the break brought the Blues right back into the game at 13-15, and they continued their momentum in the second spell as Benson Stanley scored after just three minutes.
From a scum on their own five metre line, Sharks halfback Charl McLeod threw a wildly inaccurate pass which missed both the first and second five-eighths as Stanley raced up in defence to regather the ball for perhaps the easiest try of his career.
But no sooner had the Blues finally taken the lead than they immediately relinquished it, with Sharks captain Keegan Daniel crossing the whitewash for a soft try before Tim Whitehead went over for a controversial five pointer moments later.
Anscombe managed to get the Blues to within a converted try of the Sharks with a penalty kick 15 minutes from fulltime, but they couldn’t spark anything in the final spell of the game as the Sharks snuffed out the Blues’ attack to cap off their tour with a victory.
The Blues now travel south to Dunedin to face the Highlanders on Friday night at Forsyth Barr Stadium.