Chiefs blitz Blues in Auckland
SUPER RUGBY MATCH REPORT: The Blues' dry run against New Zealand opposition continues.
The Chiefs came back from trailing 5-14 at the end of the first quarter - following a blistering start by the Blues - the Chiefs managed to secure a 27-21 Round Three win and put their campaign back on track in the wake of last week's hammering at the hands of the Crusaders.
For the Blues it is a drought that continues - 14 matches without a win against all New Zealand opposition, dating back to February 2016.
It is also 14 matches without a win against the Chiefs, dating back to March 2011.
It was a two-try (14-point) blitz in two minutes - with tries by Sam Cane and Brad Weber - that turned the game on its head.
This was follow by a Damian McKenzie penalty a short while later - turning a 10-14 half-time deficit into a 27-14 lead for the Chiefs.
The Blues managed to get back in the game with a Bryn Gatland try.
However, a combination of their own high error count and the Chiefs' committed defensive line kept the home out and handed the visitors the win.
The Chiefs suffered a double setback when All Black lock Brodie Retallick and fullback Shaun Stevenson withdrew ahead of the game through eye and leg injuries respectively. This meant that Mitchell Brown came into the starting line-up in Retallick's place while Tiaan Falcon replaced Stevenson.
The Blues made a superb start and in the eighth minute they launched a drive off the back of a line-out inside the Chiefs' 22. The ball was shifted to James Parsons, who broke free from the maul and he did well to get a pass out to Augustine Pulu who shrugged off the attentions of four defenders before crossing for the opening try.
The Chiefs had a chance to open their account shortly afterwards when Patrick Tuipulotu was penalised for side entry at a ruck but Damian McKenzie was off target with his shot at goal.
Three minutes later, the Chiefs made up for that miss when Taleni Seu scored their first try. This, after Sean Wainui did well with a strong run inside the Blues' 22. His progress was halted close to the home side's try-line but Seu gathered the ball at the ensuing ruck before barging over from close quarters.
McKenzie failed with the conversion attempt but the Blues were soon camped inside their opponents' half and in the 22nd minute Akira left his stamp on this match when he scored a brilliant try.
George Moala did well initially with a fine run up to the Chiefs' 22 where he offloaded to Ioane who proceeded on a barnstorming run, in which he beat four defenders, before crashing over the whitewash.
The Chiefs did not take long to reply, however, and two minutes later Sean Wainui crossed in the left-hand corner after a flowing move in which the visitors launched a counter attack from inside their half.
Both sides continued to attack as the half progressed but could not score further points during that period and the Blues held a slender 14-10 lead at the interval.
The Chiefs made the better start to the second half and two tries in quick succession during the early stages of the half proved decisive in the end. They took the lead for the first time in the 48th minute when, from a line-out drive on the Blues' five-metre line, Sam Cane crossed for a deserved try.
McKenzie converted and two minutes later, the visitors extended their lead when Brad Weber intercepted a wayward Melani Nanai pass, just inside the Chiefs' half, before racing away to score his side's fourth try.
In the 56th minute, McKenzie added a penalty which meant the Chiefs held a comfortable 27-14 lead although the Blues were soon camped inside the men from Hamilton's 22.
And in the 62nd minute, Bryn Gatland sold the defence a dummy before crossing for his side's third try before dusting himself off to add the conversion. That meant the Chiefs held a six-point lead and although the Blues spent large chunks of the final quarter inside the visitors' 22, the Chiefs kept them at bay with a solid defensive effort.
Man of the match: The best Blues backs were Melani Nanai and Matt Duffie (the latter with some massive hits). Then there were Akira and Rieko Ioane - who were the home team's most productive players. Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber - the eternal opportunist - wing Solomona Alaimalo and Liam Messam (physical and a constant nuisance at the breakdown) were very influential. However, our award goes to Chiefs captain Sam Cane - who managed to keep the injury-riddled team (with 15 players out injured and two more changes in the final 10 minutes before kick-off) to gel together and play with great commitment. Cane also wracked up a massive tackled count, worked hard at the breakdown and made some impressive carries.
For the Blues:
Tries: Pulu, A Ioane, Gatland
Cons: Gatland 3
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Seu, Wainui, Cane, Weber
Cons: McKenzie 2
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Thomas Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Augustine Pulu (captain), 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Michael Tamoaieta, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Jerome Kaino, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23 Michael Collins
Chiefs: 15 Tiaan Falcon, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Mitchell Brown, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Tyler Ardron, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Luke Jacobson, 23 Declan O'Donnell.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendan Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)