Despite the promise of new beginnings, the Blues have slumped to their third straight loss to start the 2019 Super Rugby season, dropping a 23-19 heartbreaker to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
The Auckland-based franchise had plenty of chances to snatch victory, with first-five Otere Black missing two very kickable penalties in the first half, the third match official overturning a given try in the second and the Blues botching an attacking five-metre scrum with time up on the clock.
In response, the Argentinians produced well-taken three tries, with winger Ramiro Moyano blitzing the Blues defence for a brace.
- As it happened - Blues vs Jaguares
- Sunwolves inspired to historic win by death of Blues player
- Blues prop Michael Tamoaieta dies
While the New Zealand side dominated possession and territory, their rivals took their opportunities far more efficiently.
Black and Jaguares counterpart Joaquin Diaz Bonilla exchanged penalties through the opening 40 minutes, but the Blues first-five hit the upright and sliced consecutive attempts that could have changed the course of the encounter.
Just before halftime, the Jaguares took a quick tap and Diaz Bonilla kicked behind the Blues defence. Rookie Tanielu Tele'a's attempted clearance barely cleared his 22 and when Moyano received the ball in centrefield, he had way too much pace for the defence to score.
That try changed the momentum and although Black put the Blues ahead in the 50th minute, Moyano snatched the advantage back with his second try, and the Jaguares stretched their lead with another from a lineout win and rolling maul.
Trailling 23-12, Dalton Papalii recovered a loose ball and sprinted 40 metres for a try that put his team back within striking distance.
With time ticking down, the Blues forced a five-metre defensive scrum and overpowered the Jaguares pack to win a penalty in front of the posts.
They called for an attacking scrum, but with the game on the line, the Argentinians produced their second tighthead of the match to clear and win.
The result leaves the Blues without a win to start the season, but in good company, with the Chiefs also dropping their third straight against the Sunwolves on Saturday night.
Fresh from their first-ever road win, the Japanese will be favourites for their second against a Blues side yet to fire under new coach Leon Macdonald.
Jaguares 23 (Moyano 2, Montoya tries, Diaz Bonilla two penalties & conversion) Blues 19 (Papalii try, Black four penalties & conversion)