Super Rugby: Blues made to pay for listless first-half performance against Sharks

Just when you thought the Blues had turned the corner, they go and turn back the clock against the Sharks in Durban.

There was much hope heading into the brief trip to South Africa following last weekend's narrow loss to the Crusaders, but they fell back into bad habits in a listless 80 minutes on Sunday morning.

The 26-7 scoreline in favour of the Sharks realistically should have been more emphatic with the home side dominating from the first whistle to the last.

The Blues were simply awful in the opening half-hour against an intelligent Sharks side that played with patience and attacking variety that kept the visitors in first gear.

Three tries in the first 30 minutes all-but sealed the points for the Sharks - Leon MacDonald's side barely threatened the Sharks 22, let alone their try line. The 19-0 Sharks halftime lead flattered the Blues.

The New Zealand franchise looked confused and lethargic throughout the opening stanza and although they showed some resistance in the second frame, scoring with 20 minutes to go, a 78th-minute sealer for the Sharks gave the scoreboard a more realistic reflection on the gap between the two sides.

MacDonald's halftime message clearly had an effect on his players as they showed some of the skills that caused the Crusaders serious headaches a week ago. Ultimately though they only had Tanielu Tele'a's try to show for their efforts.

Dalton Papalii was outstanding for the Blues, while Melani Nanai and prop Alex Hodgman stood out in the second half fightback.

With the Jaguares in Buenos Aires beckoning in a weeks' time - the Blues face the serious proposition of an 0-3 start to a season that offered so much optimism.