Blues shut out Chiefs in Hamilton
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Blues have underlined their status as title contenders by keeping the Chiefs scoreless in Hamilton to move to the top of the Super Rugby Pacific table.
Leon MacDonald’s side walked away from FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton with a 25-0 drubbing of the home side despite conceding a slew of penalties that resulted in three yellow cards.
Nevertheless, the Blues held firm to register their most impressive win of the season against a Chiefs side that was depleted early on when star midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown left the field with an apparent shoulder dislocation.
First to strike with a penalty goal on the back of some set piece dominance, the Blues were forced to defend their 13-0 lead late in the first half when Luke Romano and Sam Nock were brandished yellow cards, reducing their side to just 13 men.
In the lead-up to and during that passage of play, the Chiefs piled on the pressure with wave after wave of attack, which the Blues largely defended simply by giving away penalty after penalty.
The hosts looked to have finally taken advantage of their numerical mismatch when Samisoni Taukei’aho crossed for a try from a line-out move on the stroke of half-time.
However, he was somehow denied by Ofa Tu’ungafasi, who made a heroic tackle to force a spillage over the tryline and ensure his side headed into the sheds with their buffer still intact.
That capped off a good opening stanza for the Blues, who – despite their ill-discipline – scored the only try of the half when Tom Robinson crashed over between the sticks after Kaylum Bosher was sin binned for a dangerous tackle on Josh Goodhue.
The Auckland-based side’s ability to capitalise on a numerical advantage was something the Chiefs couldn’t replicate early in he second half, even when both Romano and Nock were still out of action.
An individual piece of brilliance by Etene Nanai-Seturo looked to have changed that when he danced through an array of defenders to score under the posts, but that try was scrubbed out due to obstruction.
Moments later, Romano and Nock returned to the field, and the visitors made the hosts pay upon their return to full-strength.
A stunning break by Mark Telea from well inside his own half instigated a highly-threatening attack that Rieko Ioane almost finished off were it not for a fantastic tackle from behind by Nanai-Seturo.
In the next phase, though, Beauden Barrett lofted an inch-perfect cross-kick to Robinson, who charged down the right-hand sideline and latched onto the ball in the Chiefs’ in-goal area to extend his side’s lead to 20 points.
Desperate to get themselves back into the contest, the Chiefs continued to fling themselves into everything on attack, but just lacked the level of execution to put the Blues to the sword.
Even when reserve prop Marcel Renata became the third Blues player to get yellow carded, the Chiefs still couldn’t manage to cross the line successfully.
Nanai-Seturo appeared to redeem himself by sliding over in the left-hand corner, but a last-gasp tackle by Telea was enough to get his opposite’s elbow to graze the in-goal touchline.
Instead, the Blues struck again through replacement wing AJ Lam to put the game out of reach, and that deficit could have been even larger had Stephen Perofeta landed a drop goal attempt that rattled the upright.
Such dominance from the Blues after playing for 30 minutes without a full complement of players against one of their title rivals must surely verify them as legitimate championship contenders.
That much is even more impressive given they were without the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Caleb Clarke, Akira Ioane and Nepo Laulala.
That sets up a blockbuster top-of-the-table clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch next Friday, while the Chiefs will look to bounce back against Moana Pasifika the following day.
For Chiefs: None
Tries: Robinson 2, Lam
Cons: Perofeta 2
Pens: Perofeta 2
Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Kaylum Boshier, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Josh Lord, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 George Dyer, 19 Samipeni Finau, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Quinn Tupaea, 23 Chase Tiatia.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii (captain), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 James Tucker, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tanielu Tele’a, 23 AJ Lam.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey & Mike Winter
TMO: Richard Kelly
By Alex McLeod, @RugbyPass