The Blues ended their 15-match winless streak against the Chiefs by claiming a bonus-point 23-8 victory in Auckland on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The victory allowed the home side to climb above the Stormers and Lions to ninth place on the overall standings, and they now trail the eighth-placed Rebels by just a single point.
The match itself was hardly one for the archives, as both sides were presented with plenty of attacking opportunities, but generally lacked the necessary punch and composure to finish off.
The decisive score came in controversial fashion in the second half, as with the hosts 13-8 up, Ofa Tuungafasi forced his way over the line, but replays showed the Blues tighthead had lost control of the ball while trying to ground it.
Despite coming under increasing pressure in the final 10 minutes, the Blues opted to continue playing beyond the hooter in search of a fourth try, which they found when replacement Gerard Cowley-Tuioti scored from a driving maul.
It was an error by Reiko Ioane that proved the early difference when an error centimetres from his line allowed Mitchell Karpik to pounce and ground the ball in the corner.
The Blues continued to threaten and got a leveller on the half-hour mark when Harry Plummer slid into the corner, but pushed his conversion to the right. The Chiefs almost immediately went ahead again through a Marty McKenzie penalty. However, Melani Nanai showed great strength to finish off for the Blues and put the hosts 10-8 up at half-time.
Plummer slotted a penalty early in the second half, before Tuungafasi drove over the line, and then Cowley-Tuioti scored after the hooter to give the Blues the bonus point.
Blues – Tries: Harry Plummer, Melani Nanai, Ofa Tuungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti. Penalty: Plummer.
Chiefs – Tries: Mitchell Karpik. Penalty: Marty McKenzie.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-c), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Lua Li, 18 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Matt Duffie.
Chiefs – 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.
Subs: 16Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 23 Shaun Stevenson, 24 Alex Nankivell.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images