The Chiefs claimed their sixth victory of the Super Rugby season on Friday but found life tough against the Blues, winning 29-23 in Hamilton.
Their bonus-point try only arrived in the 78th minute through Brodie Retallick, adding to earlier scores from Mitchell Graham, Shaun Stevenson, Aaron Cruden and Seta Tamanivalu, with Damian McKenzie kicking two conversions.
In reply the Blues try-scorers were Melani Nanai and Rieko Ioane and they were fully deserving of a losing bonus-point, which Ihaia West landed with the last kick of the game to see him leave Hamilton with a personal haul of twelve.
The Blues would have taken a great deal of heart with how they stifled the Chiefs attack in the first-half, which ended 10-6 to the hosts.
Dave Rennie’s side had scored twelve tries in the opening 40 minutes so far this season and added two more to that tally thanks to Graham and Stevenson’s efforts, but the misfiring boot of full-back McKenzie, coupled by West recording two penalties, meant it was up for grabs.
The visitors were clearly frustrating their hosts and fully deserved to be in the game, despite those two tries, the first coming in the sixth minute when a kick over the top saw Tamanivalu collect before Brad Weber’s offload found prop Graham who went over from close range.
Back came the Blues and they were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty try when Ioane was tackled early by Sam Cane five metres from the line. Soon after they landed a consolation three points via the boot of West, letting the Chiefs know they were in for a testing evening.
Unfortunately for the Blues a loose pass from West in the home 22 was gobbled up by Stevenson on 23 minutes and after a couple of phases down in the Blues 22, the wing went over for an easy finish that made it 10-3. West though would cut the gap to four before the interval.
The opening to the second-half was an incredible spectacle as four tries were scored in fifteen minutes, two for each side. The Blues had landed their double first which started in style when Nanai returned a Chiefs kick with interest, racing over from 50 metres for the lead.
10-13 soon became 10-20 too as wing Ioane was next to cross after he bumped off McKenzie before going over. The Blues had their tails up.
But this is a class Chiefs outfit and they responded in the only way they know how, with first Cruden backing himself with nothing on and then centre Tamanivalu crossed on the same left wing, with the latter try converted for the first time on the night by McKenzie for 22-20.
The Chiefs were now chasing a try bonus point and it eventually arrived with two minutes to play as Retallick had a clear run to the line from five out. It was fitting though that the game ended with the Blues bouncing back, their late penalty seeing them deservedly rewarded.
Tries: Graham, Stevenson, Cruden, Tamanivalu, Retallick
Con: McKenzie 2
Tries: Nanai, R Ioane
Con: West 2
Pen: West 3
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Maama Vaipulu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Sam McNicol
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Hoani Matenga, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Namatahi Waa, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 George Moala
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock, Kane McBride
TMO: Shane McDermott