Chiefs edge Blues in thriller
The Chiefs scored a hard-earned 23-16 win over the Blues in an intense and thrilling match in Mount Maunganui on Saturday.
The Chiefs scored a hard-earned 23-16 win over the Blues in an intense and thrilling match in Mount Maunganui on Saturday to stay at the top of the New Zealand conference.
It is the first time that the defending champion Chiefs beat the Blues in four consecutive matches.
You could not ask more of rugby players than this. It was flat out from start to finish in this marvellous North Island derby. In the end the Chiefs deserved to win because they attacked and defended better than the young Blues but the Blues ended so well and deserved a point from the game. In fact both sides deserved lots of points for the quality of the rugby they played.
It was hard. The conflicts were tough and dynamic but there were moments of skill, adventure and vision which were wonderful. This was a great advert for the game of rugby football, and it was played without a cross look.
It started in frantic fashion. There were two stoppages for quick scrums in the first six minutes but for the rest it was all action - men running with the ball with great intent.
There was a yellow card for Bundee Aki when he tipped Rene Ranger over and over, clearly with no malicious intent. There was a 'try' disallowed when the Chiefs won a turnover and Gareth Anscombe, the player the Blues did not want, chased a long kick by Richard Kahui. Frank Halai could not control the rolling ball and Anscombe was over, but the referee then asked the TMO how legally the Chiefs had won the turnover and the TMO spied Michael Fitzgerald infringing at a ruck 60 metres back from the Blues' goal-line. So the 'try' to the Chiefs became a penalty to the Blues and Chris Noakes goaled. 3-0 after 14 minutes.
First the Blues attacked with pick-'n-drive and then the Chiefs attacked from a line-out as Aki returned. Luke Braid was penalised at a tackle and Anscombe made the score 3-3 after 18 minutes.
The Chiefs did most of the attacking in this half as they dominated possession and position. Aaron Cruden and Lelia Masaga combined well in one attack. In another Kahui slashed through the middle on a long run which ended when he collided with Cruden.
Ali Williams used an illegal hand to win a ruck and Anscombe gave the Chiefs a 6-3 lead after 26 minutes.
The Blues kicked and Anscombe fielded to send Masaga off on a long, exciting run - swerving, bumping and hurdling till he was brought down five metres form the Blues' line. Masaga lost the ball forward and the Blues counterattacked. The Chiefs won a turnover and went wide left where Asaeli Tikoirotuma was over in the corner, but the alert TMO saw him drag a foot over the touchline in going over.
That gave the Blues a five-metre line-out which Ben Afeaki won for the Chiefs and they were at it again till big Brodie Retallick knocked on. It was a non-stop thriller.
Noakes was offside and Anscombe goaled. 9-3 after 36 minutes. Fritz Lee hung on at a tackle and Noakes goaled. 9-6 after 38 minutes, which was a half-time score which flattered the Blues and yet could be seen as a reward for lots of guts.
The Chiefs attacked at the start of the second half and from a five-metre scrum Aki charged past Noakes and Liam Messam was stopped right at the line. But massive Ben Tameifuna picked up and plunged over for the try. 16-6 after 47 minutes.
Retallick went offside and Noakes goaled. 16-9 after 52 minutes.
From inside their 22, the Chiefs countered. Cruden did a chip and catch and set Anscombe running.
From a line-out near their 22 the Blues went left. Noakes kicked but Kahui charged it down, went off and grabbed the ball bouncing generously and scored at the posts. 23-9 after 63 minutes.
Now came the best passage of play for the Blues as they attacked again and again, with big Steven Luatua in the van. The Chiefs defended heroically. The Blues tapped a penalty and bashed. Then they went through phases till George Moala had an overlap and was over in the left corner. From far out Baden Kerr converted. It was an important conversion as it gained the Blues a bonus point on the table. 23-16 with three minutes to play.
Man of the Match: All the men who played deserved accolades but of the Chiefs those who stood out were fullback Gareth Anscombe, scoring points against his former team, Lelia Masaga with his long, thrilling runs and our Man of the Match big, skilled, fast Richard Kahui, such a complete three-quarter.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Tameifuna, Kahui
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Anscombe 2
For the Blues:
Pens: Noakes 3
Yellow card: Bundee Aki (Chiefs, 8 - foul play, dangerous tackle)
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Patrick Osborne.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)