VIDEO: Chiefs edge Blues in sensational thriller
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: A crucial try by the “Japanese Jonah” Ataata Moeakiola boosted the Chiefs revival as they downed neighbours the Blues 33-29 in a high-paced Super Rugby derby in Hamilton on Saturday.
Moeakiola’s try, with his first touch of the ball, lifted the Chiefs to a 21-10 lead.
In a relentless closing 35 minutes, the ageless Ma’a Nonu led a spirited Blues response with two of their three second-half tries.
But each time they closed the gap, the Chiefs were able to score again to maintain their advantage.
There were some brilliant skills throughout the match and fantastic finishing.
After a disappointing four losses to start the season, the Chiefs have now strung together a draw and three consecutive victories and lifted themselves off the bottom of the New Zealand conference.
They also extended their unbeaten run against their nearest neighbours to 15 consecutive games.
“It’s huge, it’s massive to get a win in the New Zealand conference,” a satisfied Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick said.
“We came out here on our home ground and wanted to prove a point and fix up the first few rounds.
“Every time we scored they came back and we were hanging on there in the end.”
In the tense battle, the Chiefs were clinging to a 14-10 lead early in the second half when their influential fullback Damian McKenzie limped off with a knee injury and Moeakiola came on to score what proved to be the decisive try.
The Blues were first on the board with an early Otere Black penalty before the Chiefs replied with converted tries to Brad Weber and Lachlan Boshier, and the Blues came back on the stroke of half-time with a try to Melani Nanai.
When McKenzie departed soon after the restart, on came the Tongan-born Japan wing Moeakiola to score immediately and take the pressure off the Chiefs.
Moeakiola, who earned the nickname “Japanese Jonah” with a string of outstanding performances at the World Under-20 Championship in 2016, crashed over with his first touch of the ball after Chief’s standout midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown had opened up the Blues defence.
In a relentless closing 35 minutes, Nonu scored twice from close range for the Blues and Rieko Ioane also crossed the line.
But sandwiched between the Blues tries, Boshier touched down for his second try and Jesse Parete also scored to keep the Chiefs in front.
Man of the match: Ma’a Nonu continued his fine form with two tries, while Melani Nanai was devasting with ball in hand. Lachlan Boshier, who scored two tries, and Tyler Ardron were great for the Chiefs up front. However, the award goes to Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown who had an outstanding all-round game.
Tries: Weber, Boshier 2, Moeakiola, Parete
Cons: D McKenzie 2, M McKenzie 2
Tries: Nanai, Nonu 2, R Ioane
Cons: Black 2, Plummer
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Angus Ta’avao.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Ataata Moeakiola.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Thomas Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman, (New Zealand)
AFP & @rugby365com