The Blues scored three tries to edge the Chiefs 21-17 in a pulsating Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Auckland on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Blues have now completed the double over the Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa, having beaten them 24-12 in the return fixture in round two.
While the Blues’ performance was not without error, they were superior for much of the contest. They cut the Chiefs defence to shreds in the first half, and won the aerial and kicking battles.
The hosts were especially irresistible in the opening quarter of the match, running at will to rack up run metres and clean breaks. They were particularly successful down the middle, where the Chiefs had no response.
Fifteen minutes in and both Matt Duffie and captain Patrick Tuitulotu crossed for converted tries to put the Blues 14 points up.
The Blues’ discipline let them down though. They conceded several penalties, to the point that referee Brendon Pickerill had to give them a team warning. The Chiefs, who spurned several opportunities, mostly created by the mercurial Damian McKenzie, then proceeded to show some ticker when they scored 17 unanswered points to hit the front.
Lachlan Boshiet’s try before the break cut the deficit by half, followed by a converted try from Solomon Alaimalo and a McKenzie penalty. The second try would have been particularly pleasing for the Chiefs management, as flyhalf replacement Aaron Cruden played a pivotal part in creating the chance.
No sooner and the Chiefs relinquished their advantage as their defence let them down again. In a move started and finished by lively scrumhalf Finlay Christie, the Blues went from around halfway to score. That play forced the Chiefs to chase the game, and chase they did.
In a breathless but outstanding finish to the game, the Chiefs won a penalty and opted to go for the line. Cruden missed touch, but the Blues’ clearance kick was miscued, giving the visitors an attack lineout on the 22. After securing the ball at the set-piece, the Chiefs went close but a deliberate infringement prevented a try being scored, forcing Pickerill to yellow card Blues replacement Harry Plumber.
With another penalty five metres out and up against 14 men, the odds were in the Chiefs’ favour to snatch a rare victory from the jaws of defeat. But the home team’s defence was equal to the task, and forced a crucial turnover penalty on their own line after the Chiefs took a tap instead of a scrum or lineout.
Much to the bristling Chiefs’ dismay, that proved to be the defining moment as the Blues set a lineout, secured the ball at the throw-in and hoofed the ball into touch to end the match and secure victory.
The most important penalty of the season? And with that, @BluesRugbyTeam stay on the tail of the Crusaders.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 26, 2020
Blues –Tries: Matt Duffie, Patrick Tuipulotu, Finlay Christie. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3).
Chiefs – Tries: Lachlan Boshier, Solomon Alaimalo. Conversions: Damian McKenzie (2). Penalty: McKenzie.
Blues – 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Blake Gibson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Tolai Luteru, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe,, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Otere Black, 23 Harry Plummer.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Reuben O’Neill.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
Photo: Getty Images