Super stalemate at wet Eden Park
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Blues and Chiefs played to a 16-all draw at Eden Park on Friday, the first time ever the two franchises were involved in a stalemate in the competition.
In ever-worsening conditions, with monsoon-like rain in the second half, the Chiefs outscored the home team by two tries to one.
However, the trusted boot of Blues flyhalf Pierce Francis - who kicked three penalties and a conversion - kept the Blues in the lead until some magic by Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie allowed the visitors to draw level.
Despite some intense efforts from both teams, the conditions helped conspire to leave the sides deadlocked.
Rieko Ioane and Sonny Bill Williams both made their cases for All Blacks selection for the British and Irish Lions Tests.
The Blues wing, Ioane, profited from a trademark Williams offload - who is also trying to state his All Blacks claims - to score the opening try in Auckland.
Damian McKenzie and Johnny Faauli scored tries for the Chiefs in a draw that did not help either side in the New Zealand conference.
The Chiefs are likely to slip further behind the Crusaders and Hurricanes, while the Blues' season is all but over.
In a match which started in damp and cold weather and ended in pouring rain, the Blues had a chance to snap the deadlock with a penalty eight minutes from full-time.
But Northampton-bound flyhalf Piers Francis, who has been called into the England squad for their tour of Argentina, missed what should have been a routine kick.
The Chiefs had banked on a win to continue putting pressure on the Crusaders, while the Blues needed maximum points to keep alive their slim mathematical hopes of making the top eight.
The Blues have not beaten a New Zealand side since they downed the Highlanders in Round One last year and they have not won against the Chiefs, their nearest neighbours, in 12 matches dating back to 2011.
"We did enough to win. Piers had that opportunity with that kick at the end but it wasn't to be. But a draw is better than a loss," Blues captain James Parsons said.
"But, we've got to get better at finishing these New Zealand derbies."
Chiefs skipper Sam Cane agreed with Parsons that it was an unsatisfactory outcome.
"A draw's supposed to make you feel good but talking to both of us you probably wouldn't know that. To be completely honest we [the Chiefs] were probably a wee bit fortunate."
Hanging over the heads of all the New Zealand sides is the Lions Test series next month, with the All Blacks squad yet to be finalised.
Several players on both sides needed big performances to prove they remain frontline Test material, and it was 20-year-old Ioane who put his hand up highest.
He was constantly looking for work and was rewarded with the opening try when he was on hand to finish a move sparked by Williams' offload.
Where the Chiefs excelled was from regaining possession at the kick-off.
The first time, after Ioane's try, led to repeated attacks on the Blues line before the Chiefs undid their good work by giving away a penalty.
But the second time, after a Francis penalty, Brodie Retallick recovered the kick-off and the Chiefs went wide for McKenzie to scamper 40 metres to score.
Francis kicked three penalties for the Blues and converted Ioane's try while the Chiefs points came from the tries to McKenzie and Faauli, with McKenzie and Aaron Cruden both kicking penalties.
Man of the match: Steven Luatua and Blake Gibson put in massive workloads, Pierce Francis and Augustine Pulu did the basics very well in testing conditions. Then there was Rieko Ioane, not just on defence, but also making the hard yards with the ball in hand. Chiefs prop Kane Hames won his battle with All Black veteran Charlie Faumuina. However, you can always bank on Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie to create the magic that turns the game and he wins our award.
For the Blues:
Try: R Ioane
Pens: Francis 3
For the Chiefs:
Tries: McKenzie, Faauli
Pens: McKenzie, Cruden
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13. George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 TJ Faiane.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Solomon Alaimalo, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)