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Thread: Blues suffer back-to-back losses

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    Blues suffer back-to-back losses

    Blues suffer back-to-back losses
    Tired Blues buckle to Force's late onslaught
    By DUNCAN JOHNSTONE - RugbyHeaven | Saturday, 15 March 2008
    Blues suffer back-to-back losses (+pics) - New Zealand's source for sport, rugby, cricket & league news on (For the pics)

    LATEST: The Blues' insistence on keeping the bulk of their team intact over the opening five rounds of the Super 14 caught up on them as a tiring side surrendered to the Western Force over the final quarter, coughing up their second successive loss, this time 27-17 at Albany.

    Coach David Nucifora's decision to change just one player from last week's draining loss to the Sharks in Durban always placed a question mark over his team's resilience.

    The Blues battled bravely to a 17-10 lead at the three-quarter mark but then a clearly tiring defence conceded two tries to the Western Force.

    John Mitchell's side, unlike last week against the Crusaders in Perth when they blew a big lead, closed out the match this time.

    That, as much as anything, shows the difference between the Crusaders and the Blues who were a double-act as the championship front-runners not so long ago. Now the crafty Crusaders stand alone.

    The Blues weren't helped by an early injury to their playmaker Nick Evans who was forced off with a head knock after half an hour and taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up.

    Not that his young replacement Isaia Toeava, didn't do a bad job. In fact he was in stunning form until that desperate final quarter when he had little to work with as the Blues were swamped.

    Toeava's development continues. As he matures there's a real physical edge coming into his game now.

    Toeava was doing a decent job of handling the Force's impressive league convert Ryan Cross at centre before he was called into first five-eighths to run the show.

    The young man is no stranger to the position of course. Toeava made his name as an outstanding age-grade player there and his Auckland debut came in the No 10 jersey.

    But he didn't have much to work with when it mattered most.

    This was a disappointing loss for the Blues in a match that always loomed as dangerous after last week's defeat to the Sharks Durban and the travel involved in returning from South Africa.

    There were few signs - if any - of fatigue from Nucifora's hard working pack early on.

    In fact a few of them had a spring to their step that was helped by having a bit of sun on their backs in a glorious evening at North Harbour Stadium where 13,200 turned up for the show..

    John Afoa was full of running and in a team that has had their scoring dominated by their fleet-footed backs fellow prop Tony Woodcock got on the scoresheet.

    The back row continued to be a muscular force that Mitchell's mob struggled to combat at the breakdowns and skipper Troy Flavell was making a marvellous job of mixing up his tight-five work with some rampaging in the loose.

    It's doubtful there's a better right wing going around the New Zealand scene at the moment than Anthony Tuitavake who again jinked and weaved his way around the park.

    But the longer the match wore on the more the danger signs kept popping up with tackles missed and some questionable decision making at times. The Force won the second half 20-nil and the match with it.

    The Blues didn't take long to kick into gear with Woodcock finishing off a long build-up in the 10th minute that swept 30m and involved some ball handling magic from Flavell and Nick Williams.

    Giteau missed a simple penalty in front after copping a high shot from Benson Stanley. But the Force put that behind them to engineer a good try down the left flank, stretching the Blues' defence and then having Cameron Shepherd slice through to the line on the cutback to tie up the match after 20 minutes.

    The Blues had the better of the territory stakes over the next quarter and struck twice just before halftime.

    Ben Atiga landed a difficult penalty and then Toeava carved through the Force and offloaded for Tuitavake to weave his way to the line for a healthy 17-7 lead at the break.

    Gitaue closed the gap with a penalty at the end of the third quarter and the big question mark was whether the home side had enough gas in the tank over the final 20 minutes.

    Visiting No 8 Richard Brown immediately emphasised that when he was given plenty of room on the right to score and Giteau's conversion squared the match up again.

    A quick penalty to Giteau had the Force in front 20-17 with 14 minutes left.

    And when the Force managed to whipped up a similar recipe down the left touchline, replacement forward Tamati Horua was on hand to finish off with Giteau adding the extras.

    The Blues fought valiantly over the final few minutes but they were a spent Force.

    Surely there will need to be some fresh legs injected into East Saturday's clash with the red-hot Stormers at Eden Park.

    Blues 17: Tony Woodcock Anthony Tuitavake tries; Nick Evans con; Ben Atiga con, pen.

    Western Force 27: Cameron Shepherd, Richard Brown, Tamati Horua tries; Matt Giteau 3 con, 2 pen.

    HT: 17-7

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    Tuitavake looked dangerous in the first half, i didnt watch much of the second half and i came back and the Force were winning 27-17

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    The Blues fought valiantly over the final few minutes but they were a spent Force.


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    the punters friend..... stick with me and you will be wearing

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