The under-siege Blues battled hard but stumbled to their sixth loss from seven games in Super Rugby, falling 29-23 to the Sharks at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

Two intercept tries to the South Africans inside the first 20 minutes meant the Blues were playing catch-up for much of the first half and, although they took the lead briefly in the second spell, the Sharks' superior finishing saw them home.

It took barely two minutes before the home team conceded, Sharks lock Steven Sykes crossing in the corner after captain and No.8 Keegan Daniel snapped up a loose pass inside his own 22m with the Blues hot on attack.

The Blues fought back but the Sharks defence held firm, holding out a series of attacks as handling errors continued to plague the home team.

Down 8-0 after 15 minutes, things just got worse for the Blues when Sharks hooker Craig Burden showed a useful turn of speed to sprint 50m after grabbing a loose pass from Blues flanker Chris Lowrey.

The conversion put the visitors up 15-0, but the under-siege Blues recovered well.

A Gareth Anscombe penalty put them on the board, then some good field position and a strong scrum put All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock over after 33 minutes.

Anscombe's boot continued to close the gap and the Blues went into the halftime break trailing 13-15, a deficit they turned around two minutes after the restart when Benson Stanley pounced on a loose Sharks' clearance from a defensive scrum.

The try and conversion put the Blues ahead 20-15, but only briefly as some strong running from the Sharks and good support play gave well-constructed tries to Daniel and second five-eighth Tim Whitehead within three minutes.

Anscombe put the Blues to within six with a 66th minute penalty, but they couldn't string together enough phases to break through the Sharks' solid defensive screen.

NZ Newswire

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