Future bright for Blues
Blues coach Pat Lam said the side was still feeling the impact of the loss of so many players three or four seasons ago but he felt after his side's stuttering 30-20 win over the Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday that progress had been made in 2010.
The season had been long but he said it was enjoyable, not so much for the results but for the growth he had seen in players in the side, and especially in the last few weeks of the competition after the low point was reached in the away loss to the Cheetahs.
"We had two more wins than last year, we didn't lose anything by more than 13 points, we scored the most tries in the competition. One thing I struggled last year was that we got walloped in four games, we got hammered and we certainly showed a lot more bottle this year.
"There is still a sense of what could have been, but there have been a lot of positives to come out of it," he said.
The majority of the side would be kept together with 80-90 percent of the side guaranteed to be back with the Blues next year.
His message to Blues fans, who had packed the available seating of around 17,000 for the fourth time this season on Saturday, was to keep believing.
"We'll be even stronger next year," he said.
The aim was to establish a foundation for the franchise and he said he would be very surprised if the side didn't break back into the top bracket next year.
"I've seen a step up and next year is about being more consistent," Lam said.
Captain Keven Mealamu said the competition overall had been tougher this year but the side had definitely moved up from last year and he felt the side probably missed a semi-finals berth by one win in the final analysis.
Chiefs coach Ian Foster said his side had been dealt 'a pretty extraordinary deck of cards this year', a reference to the injuries which plagued the side.
In Saturday's game 12 first rank players were unavailable due to injury and the Chiefs had fielded players who under normal circumstances could have expected to make their debuts in 2012.
Foster said he still '100 percent' wanted to retain the coaching job and the end of season reviews coming were par for the course.
Chiefs captain Liam Messam said while it had been a frustrating season things were looking bright for the future.
"I was the oldest guy out there tonight and I am only 26," he said.