Resurgent Blues add to Gatland's woes
MATCH REPORT: The Blues made it two wins from two matches in Super Rugby Aotearoa after they beat the Chiefs 24-12 in Hamilton on Saturday.
It was the visitors first away win against the Chiefs since 2011 and it provided more evidence of the Blues resurgence in 2020.
Regardless of what happens in the match between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders, the Blues will be on top of the standings at the end of Round Two.
The result will be a worry for Chiefs coach Warren Gatland who saw his team slump to their second-straight defeat after their narrow loss to the Highlanders last week.
The Chiefs dominated territory and possession in the opening few minutes and they were eventually rewarded for their pressure when fullback Damian McKenzie converted a penalty into three points in the 12th minute.
However, the Chiefs’ hard work was undone in the 15th minute when Blues No.8 Hoskins Sotutu powered his way over the tryline after the visitors’ first foray into the home team’s 22. Flyhalf Otere Black added the extra two points with the conversion.
McKenzie brought the Chiefs to within one point of the visitors in the 21st minute after McKenzie was on target with another penalty.
Discipline was becoming a big problem for the Blues, especially at the breakdown, and it allowed McKenzie another shot at goal from over 50 metres out in the 28th minute, which he could not convert.
Black had the chance to put the Blues four points in front again a few minutes later, but he also was off target with his penalty kick.
The flyhalf eventually found his rhythm again with a three-pointer in the 37th minute.
However, the Chiefs were given a major advantage in the 40th minute when Blues loose forward Dalton Papalii was yellow-carded after an infringement at the breakdown. McKenzie converted the penalty into three points and at half-time it was 10-9 in favour of the Blues.
The Blues were first on the board in the second half when Black slotted another penalty in the 52nd minute before McKenzie hit back a few minutes later with a successful penalty kick of his own.
The arm-wrestle continued and it was the Blues who stretched their lead to four once again with a fantastic drop kick from Beauden Barrett in the 64th minute.
That lead was extended to seven points in the 69th minute when Barrett took over the kicking duties to convert a penalty.
The game was then taken away from the Chiefs a few minutes later when some exceptional interplay from the Blues resulted in wing Mark Telea running in for a try.
Man of the match: Blues No.8 Hoskins Sotutu was the star of the show. He scored a try and provided the perfectly timed pass to Mark Telea for his try. Sotutu was immense when he carried the ball in open play and he also got his team over the gain line on numerous occasions.
Pens: McKenzie 4
Tries: Sotutu, Telea
Pens: Black 2, Barrett
Yellow card: Dalton Papalii (Blues, 40 – repeated infringements)
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Quinn Tupaea, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Reuben O’Neill, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Dylan Nel, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Solomon Alaimalo.
Blues: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Thomas Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Paul Williams
TMO: James Doleman