No one said being a Blues fan was going to be easy this year, and their last game at Eden Park more or less summed that experience up.
The 22-all draw against the Bulls was a mostly difficult and frustrating game to watch. For the first 70 minutes both teams seemed intent on dropping the ball and settling for scrum penalties, before the last 10 finally saw a bit of sustained enterprise.
The weather certainly didn’t help. It was a horrible night of rain and cold temperatures at Eden Park, with many fans wisely staying away and watching the game on TV. The ones that did show up probably regretted ever leaving the house or pub.
It was the visitors who struck first with a penalty off the boot of Manie Libbok, who was in for the injured Springbok first five Handre Pollard. After Harry Plummer equalised for the Blues, both teams scored remarkably similar tries.
First flanker Hanro Liebenberg crashed his way over, after both teams realised it was raining and tightened up their attacking play. Then All Black prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi replicated his effort down the other end, however his try came after what looked to be a perfectly fine one by Jonathan Ruru was rubbed out by the TMO.
From then on, the game got increasingly uglier as wayward kicks and poorly judged passes dominated. The Bulls wouldn’t have minded this at all, as they were content just to stay in touch and look forward to a rare result on NZ soil.
But it was a frustrating time for the Blues. Even though they earned every bit of Scott Scrafton’s try off a slick line out move, then a solid scrum got Akira Ioane over, they just couldn’t find the next gear to pull away with the lead.
After 76 minutes, the Bulls got a crucial penalty and executed a perfect attacking lineout to send a drive close to the Blues’ line. Libbok saw his opportunity and slid in next to the posts to lock the scores up at 22-all, but the drama wasn’t done yet. A penalty on the last play of the game gave young Harry Plummer a chance to snatch victory, but his kick sailed well wide.
Blues 22 (O Tu’ungafasi, S Scrafton, A Ioane tries; H Plummer 2 con, pen)
Bulls 22 (M Libbok, H Liebenberg, C Hendricks tries; Libbok 2 con, pen)