The Blues slumped to their sixth defeat of the Super Rugby season after going down 29-23 to the Sharks in Auckland on Friday.
The Blues slumped to their sixth defeat of the 2012 Super Rugby season after going down 29-23 to the Sharks at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
A terrible week for coach Pat Lam and his troops just got worse, while the Sharks leave New Zealand on a high thanks to their four-try bonus point win that puts them back in the play-offs hunt.
It was the eighth consecutive win for the South Africans over their Kiwi counterparts, who will no doubt face another barrage of criticism in the aftermath of another loss.
The Sharks raced out of the starting blocks first with a try to Steven Sykes, after the lock was on hand to take a pass from skipper Keegan Daniel who did all the hard work by intercepting a Blues pass and racing 50m to the tryline.
A try-saving tackle by Gareth Anscombe stopped Daniel just short, but the Blues pivot couldn't prevent the supporting Sykes from powering over.
Patrick Lambie couldn't add the extras, but was on target with a penalty attempt in the 15th minute to take his team into an 8-0 lead.
The Sharks struck again immediately from the restart after the Blues threw yet another intercept pass to hooker Craig Burden who didn't need a second invite to the tryline as the former wing turned on the gas for a converted score under the posts.
Fifteen points down, and the hosts were in trouble. However, after repeated surges on the Sharks line amounted to nothing, Anscombe took the three points on offer by referee Steve Walsh – who had another shocker with the whistle – to put the Blues on the board.
With half-time approaching, the Blues managed to win an illegal scrum against the feed and Tony Woodcock finished what he started with a try as the prop burrowed over for a crucial score converted by Anscombe.
The Blues pivot then made it a two-point ball game after calmly slotting over a drop-goal from bang in front to take the scores to 15-13 at the break.
The home side made the perfect start to the second half when centre Benson Stanley pounced on a sloppy pass from Sharks scrum-half Charl McLeod for his team's second try. Anscombe dually converted and the Blues were in front for the first time in the match (20-15).
Celebrations in the Eden Park stands didn't last long though as the Sharks hit back straight away with two quickfire tries through Daniel and centre Tim Whitehead – both converted by Lambie.
The first from Daniel saw the number eight dart past two defenders before crossing the line, and the second came after Lambie made a superb line break before linking with that man Daniel who offloaded to Whitehead.
Running at full tilt, the Sharks midfielder knocked the ball on to a Blues defender but managed to snatch back possession and cruise in for the bonus point try that the visitors were lucky to get away with.
With the Blues forced to play catch-up yet again, Anscombe sent over a 67th minute penalty to close the gap to six points which meant the hosts needed a converted try to win the game.
But the Sharks were up to the task, with some exceptional defence keeping the Blues at bay as the visitors hung on for victory.
Tries: Woodcock, Stanley
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Anscombe 2
Tries: Sykes, Burden, Daniel, Whitehead
Cons: Lambie 3
Blues: 15 Rudi Wulf, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Liaki Moli, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 George Moala.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 JandrÃ© Marais, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Frederic Michalak.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)