Queensland have slumped to their fourth straight Super Rugby defeat, overwhelmed by the vibrant Blues 44-14 in Auckland.
The Queensland Reds’ castle has officially crumbled.
Ten games into their post-Ewen McKenzie era, the Reds have fallen from Super Rugby contenders to toothless, seemingly-clueless cellar-dwellers.
New coach Richard Graham’s first season in charge spiralled into a deep, dark hole with a 44-14 Eden Park massacre – picked apart by the Blues in Auckland.
It was Queensland’s fourth straight defeat, and with each they have progressively got worse.
They were so seriously off the mark on Friday night, it’s hard to see them digging their way out this season.
The Reds were outskilled, outsmarted and outpaced to be 34-0 down after 52 minutes before the Ma’a Nonu-inspired Blues started emptying their bench.
“I thought they played fantastic footy,” Graham told AAP in his praise of the home side.
Graham was at pains to be positive about the effort and commitment of his troops but they look a far cry from the team which took Super Rugby by storm with it’s scintillating attack in 2010, won the title in 2011 and made the play-offs in 2012 and ’13.
Most damning is the fact their defence – which let in only 23 tries in 16 matches last season – has now leaked 15 from the past four.
Graham was the savvy defence coach under McKenzie last year but the former Western Force mentor’s head coaching record is now 10 wins and two draws from 34 matches – a bare 30 per cent.
Queensland’s rugby chiefs have strongly backed the hand-picked replacement to stay for the long haul but their patience will be tested if the woes continue.
“The only thing you can do in this situation is continue to work hard,” Graham said. “There’s no magic formula.”
Queensland’s five-tries-to-two loss made for a horror New Zealand trip – two forgettable losses to ‘celebrate’ milestones of loyal Queensland servants.
While captain James Horwill’s ton was ruined by the Hurricanes (35-21) in Wellington, Quade Cooper’s winless record at Eden Park continued in his 100th.
Overcoming an ankle injury to play in his halves partner’s milestone match, Will Genia was a stand-out in attack and defence, saving several times, but few others impressed.
The Blues snapped their four-game drought against the Reds with a vibrant opening in which the powerful Nonu showed the added skill and precision to his game by smartly setting up two set-piece tries for a 20-0 halftime lead.
The All Blacks centre ended any hopes of a comeback immediately after the break by bursting past Horwill and Saia Fainga’a to send halfback Bryn Hall over.
It was the Aucklanders’ second try while Reds prop James Slipper sat in the sin-bin for a mindless lifting tackle on Peter Saili.
With Cooper and the backline comprehensively shut down, the Reds resorted to keeping it tight in a late rally which resulted in consolation tries to Ben Daley and Horwill.