Chiefs win Eden Park thriller

The Chiefs produced a stunning second half comeback to down the Blues 37-29 at Eden Park in the opening encounter of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season.

The Blues headed into the break 19-5 up as they dominated from the first whistle. The competition sprang to life thanks to a wonderful piece of interplay from the hosts’ backline which saw Tony Lamborn delight the home crowd.

Influential wing Rieko Ioane bagged a brace in a half where the Chiefs saw very little ball in the attacking third. They did however manage their own five-pointer albeit from a lineout as Samisoni Taukei’aho dotted down.

Warren Gatland then rung the changes as the Chiefs looked to fight their way back into the contest after the break.

The Blues were helpless to stop the Chiefs dominance as Pita Sowakula burrowed over. Aaron Cruden added the extras to pull the Chiefs level but it was a short-lived moment of parity as Karl Tu’inukuafe went over from close range with a little over 20 minutes to play.

The game had completely opened up as both sides went on all-out attack. Thoughts of any defensive plans were shelved as the ball was flung about with reckless abandon. Chiefs prop Aidan Ross reduced the margin once again with a try in the 64th minute as the visitors continued to move the ball through the phases with great success.

A lengthy TMO call, not for the first time, then eventually ruled in favour of the visitors with wing Solomon Alaimalo correctly deemed to have legally sealed a sublime finish in the corner to put the Chiefs ahead for the first time in the contest.

Cruden added a drop goal to put his side out of touch but the drama was not over as a late Harry Plummer penalty saw the Blues move within a try as the clock wound down.

Eventually, the Chiefs would cling to their come-from-behind win as Cruden put the nail in the coffin with a last-minute penalty, the first of the game from either side, in what was a marvellous advert for Super Rugby.

Blues – 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Kurt Eklind, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Emoni Narawa.

Chiefs – 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Quinn Tupea, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Sam Cane (c), 7 Mitch Karpik, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitch Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Samisoni Tauki’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Subs: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Anton Leinert-Brown.

Photo: Getty Images