The Blues rounded off their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign after scoring six tries to inflict a 39-19 defeat on the Chiefs in Auckland on Saturday.
Gameflow: The Chiefs came into this clash sitting second on the log and the Blues third, but the former were already assured of a place next week’s final against the Crusaders.
For this reason, the Chiefs did field a largely second-string side, with most of their leading players rested for the title decider.
The game itself was fast paced enough, but because of unforced errors on both sides – the Chiefs in open play and the Blues at the set pieces – meant neither team really got going. The Blues crossed for two tries, scored by forwards Kurt Eklund and Adrian Choat, but flyhalf Bryn Gatland slotted three penalties to keep a second-string Chiefs XV in touch on the scoreboard at the midway mark.
The error rate was reduced in the second half and it was a much-more closely fought contest. Nine minutes after the restart Gatland nailed his fourth penalty to cut the deficit to two points, but it wasn’t long before Blues debutant Zarn Sullivan slid over for a stunning individual try to extend his team’s advantage.
Heading into the final quarter, the Chiefs upped the ante as they went in search of a comeback win and after a phase of multiple turnovers, wing Shaun Stevenson finished off a well-worked team effort in the corner and Gatland succeeded with the touchline conversion to level the scores at 19 all.
But the Blues moved up a gear in the last 10 minutes to sink the final-bound Chiefs. Otere Black added a penalty to edge the hosts ahead, before they bagged two late tries to put an exclamation mark on their victory.
Big-hit wonder: Making his Super Rugby debut, Tonga international Zane Kapeli produced a statement performance despite being on the wrong side of the result. His impact, especially on defence, is best illustrated by his hit on Otere Black.
🤔 Hit of the year?
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) May 1, 2021