Video: Blues add to Chiefs' misery
MATCH REPORT: The Blues returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 21-17 win over the Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland.
After back-to-back defeats, the Auckland side outscored the Chiefs three tries to two for the crucial win.
The results pushes the Blues back into second place on 17 points, just one point ahead of the third-placed Hurricanes and two behind the Crusaders.
As for the Chiefs, they remain rooted to bottom place on the competition standings after setting a franchise-record seven straight defeats.
*As it happened: Blues v Chiefs
It was the Blues’ defence in the final minute of the match that effectively won them the contest that was dominated by both forward packs, with the front rows on either side of the scrum putting in an admirable display.
The Blues were in sublime form as they scored two quick-fire tries after just 14 minutes of play.
All Blacks duo Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane produced some amazing interplay before Matt Duffie barged down for the first try of the match. Barrett added the conversion for the 7-0 lead.
In less than five minutes later, the Blues doubled their tally when the pair Barrett and Ioane linked up again to set the perfect platform for captain Patrick Tuipulotu to power over the line for the five points.
Right on the quarter mark, the Chiefs strike back and reduced the deficit to just seven points. A clever pop pass by Pita Sowakula found Lachlan Boshier, who crashed over for his team’s first try of the match.
McKenzie added the extra two points with the conversion.
With extra vigour and momentum on their side, Chiefs had a chance to level matters when Solomon Alaimalo pounced on a loose ball inside the Blues’ five-metre line. However, a rare forward pass by the reliable Damian McKenzie halted all the plans.
At half-time, it was 14-7 to the Blues.
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Aaron Cruden entered the fray in the second half and his entrance was immediately felt as he combined with Anton Leinert-Brown for a Solomon Alaimalo try. McKenzie levelled the score with a conversion.
Locked at 14-all, the Chiefs continued to pile on the pressure and took the lead with a perfectly executed penalty by McKenzie. 17-14 after 50 minutes of play.
It didn’t take long for the Blues to hit back. Scrumhalf Finlay Christie stretched over the line, at first it looked short however after a TMO review, the referee awarded the try.
Barrett slotted the quick conversion for the 21-17 lead.
What a fight it was in the final quarter, too, with just four points separating the two sides and neither team giving an inch.
For every break the Blues made or every phase of pressure they built, the Chiefs found an answer defensively.
Whether it was a last-gasp tackle or a penalty turnover stemming from the breakdown, Gatland’s troops managed to nullify the attacking threat posed by the Blues.
Their off-the-ball tenacity was eventually rewarded when they were given a lineout throw on the opposition’s 22-metre mark.
A penalty advantage gave the Chiefs free license to wreak havoc on attack, and that they did through Cruden’s ball-running and offloading ability, which tore the Blues apart.
That created a ton of space for Wainui in the outside channel, but a Caleb Clarke tackle stopped the Chiefs flyer in his tracks.
The visitors were given another penalty, though, and that’s when the Blues were forced to front up on their own tryline with the clock ticking into the final few minutes.
The pressures that came with that were evident, and replacement playmaker Harry Plummer was sent to the sin bin for cynical play with just two minutes to play.
That one-man disadvantage, however, didn’t deter Leon MacDonald’s team, and although the Chiefs tried to smash their way over the goal line, Josh Goodhue snagged a breakdown turnover to effectively secure a tightly-contested win for his side.
It was a controversial call given it looked like there was no clear release made by Goodhue, nor did it look like he was supporting his own body weight.
Man of the match: Damian McKenzie was in sublime for the Chiefs. His lethal breaks set up a try and managed to get his team in danger zone. However, our nod goes to Blues midfielder Rieko Ioane, who produced a couple of key moments, which helped his team to victory.
Tries: Duffie, Tuipulotu, Christie
Cons: Barrett 3
Tries: Boshier, Alaimalo
Cons: McKenzie 2
Yellow card: Harry Plummer (Blues, 78 – professional foul)
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 (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Luteru Tolai, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Otere Black or Emoni Narawa, 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 (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Reuben O’Neill.
Replacements: 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.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Paul Williams
TMO: Mike Fraser
* Additional reporting by RugbyPass