The Blues slumped to their fifth defeat in six matches as they were defeated by the Rebels 34-23 in Melbourne on Thursday night.
The season continues to go from bad to worse for Pat Lam’s men, who now find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Super Rugby ladder with just 10 points, four of which were accrued from the bye last week.
With Keven Mealamu returning from a calf strain to partner Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina in the front row, the Blues continually smashed their opponents at the scrum.
But despite a solid attacking platform, lateral passes, dropped balls and poor decision making blunted their lacklustre attack.
Daniel Braid was a late withdrawal from the match due to a stomach bug, paving the way for Northland flanker Dan Pryor to start and he was one of the few players who really impressed for the visitors, producing an outstanding performance on debut.
After a week off with the bye, the Blues were desperate to get their faltering campaign back on track and said they wanted to revert to the old style of†exhilarating,†attacking rugby that seen the franchise succeed in the past.
They refused to kick the ball out and attacked from deep, throwing long cut out passes to try and unleash their dangerous outside backs, but far too often they were caught out by the pressing Rebels defence or made errors which resulted in turnovers.
Indeed when the Blues were penalised for holding on inside the first two minutes, Rebels star James O’Connor slotted a penalty goal to give his side the early lead.
Resuming his playmaking duties at first five-eighths following a broken nose against the Stormers, Gareth Anscombe nailed a long range penalty goal attempt to level the scores.
But, with the Blues pressing hard on attack and just metres short of the Rebels try line, the last pass couldn’t find its man as Wallaby Kurtley Beale intercepted the ball and raced 90 metres to score a heartbreaking try.
After missing the conversion and a penalty attempt, James O’Connor made no mistake from right out in front when the Blues scrum was penalised to give his side an 11-3 lead after 19 minutes.
But consecutive penalties from sharp shooter Anscombe saw the Blues narrow the deficit to 11-9 at the break.
With the Blues’ aspirations of making a charge for the playoffs effectively hanging on the result of this match, the Blues came out with much more intent in the second half and bagged their first try within three minutes.
Back from suspension, Rene Ranger had a disappointing night overall but did manage to beat two defenders down the touchline and pass infield for fullback Rudi Wulf who went over the whitewash as the Blues struck back to claim the lead for the first time.
But it was short lived, with James O’Connor landing two more penalties before scoring a fortuitous try as the Rebels took the game away from the Blues.
Chris Lowrey did manage to crash over for a try with three minutes remaining on the clock to bring the scores to 27-23 and give Pat Lam a glimmer of hope of snatching the match, or at least securing a bonus point.
But Rebels captain Gareth Delve scored a try as the siren sounded to secure a 34-23 victory for his side.