The Chiefs scored six tries as they secured a 41-26 bonus-point win over the Blues in Hamilton on Friday.
The defining moment in this match came right before half-time. At that stage, the Chiefs led 15-9 in a closely fought battle where little had separated the sides.
It then appeared as if the Chiefs had squandered a try-scoring opportunity with the final play of the half when scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow lost the ball just short of the tryline.
However, the match officials had picked up on an off-the-ball act of foul play, with Blues flanker Steven Luatua duly receiving a red card for a high swinging arm that caught Chiefs winger Tim Nanai-Williams around the neck.
From there, the Chiefs kicked the penalty to the corner, and hooker Hika Elliot dived over from the back of a lineout drive to score a try that helped to send the hosts suddenly into a 22-9 lead.
Almost immediately after the restart, Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier burrowed over the tryline for the Chiefs’ fourth try, and at 29-9, it was as good as game over.
During the third quarter, James Lowe and Anton Lienert-Brown also added to the Chiefs’ try tally, and while Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina and Rene Ranger did hit back in an impressive late surge from the Blues, it was never going to be enough.
Chiefs – Tries: Liam Messam, Damian McKenzie, Hika Elliot, Lachlan Boshier, James Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (4). Penalty: Cruden.
Blues – Tries: Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Rene Ranger. Conversion: Ihaia West. Penalties: West (3).
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Toni Pulu, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Blues – 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Jimmy Tupou (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Jerome Kaino, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 George Moala, 23 Rene Ranger.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images