Planet Rugby

Chiefs make the play-offs

11th July 2014 10:18

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Patrick Tuipulotu for the Blues against the Chiefs

Knocked out: The Blues

The Chiefs kept alive their hopes of winning three straight Super Rugby titles after they edged the Blues 11-8 to make the play-offs at Eden Park.

Dave Rennie's charges got the job done in the end as their experience of knockout rugby was evident as the Auckland outfit now bow out.

The hosts will wonder what might have been after a strong start but a pre-game task of winning by 38 points was always the stuff of dreams.

The Blues set their stall out early in miserable conditions as they snubbed three and instead looked for seven with the wind in their favour.

Steven Luatua went close with a carry before back-row colleague Jerome Kaino was denied a score after excellent work from Chiefs scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow saw him wrap his boot around the number eight to dislodge the ball out of the Blues man's grasp. It was a quite superb.

Remarkably the Chiefs held out the Blues for thirteen minutes in Auckland before they finally managed to escape their own 22, then looking up at the scoreboard for the early psychological fillip. On 21 minutes they could even have gone ahead but for Aaron Cruden's long-range kick dropping short due to the strong wind.

At this point the Blues had lost both Keven Mealamu and Lolagi Visinia to injury as James Parson and George Moala emerged, but their first sight of the game would be Cruden lining one up again after Francis Saili was offside, this time Cruden making no mistake for 3-0.

It should have been an eight-point lead soon after when Kerr-Barlow's break set up Tom Marshall with the line at his mercy. However, the full-back's attempted offload when he possibly could have used the conditions to slide went forward and the Blues survived. They would have to see out the final four minutes of the first-half with fourteen men when Ma'a Nonu was yellow carded for a no-arm tackle on Chiefs outside centre Tim Nanai-Williams.

The second-half saw a change in mindset from the Blues as a 41-point victory in the poor conditions was surely not even in their wildest dreams so West levelling after Messam was penalised and they could have been ahead but for a post denying the fly-half minutes later.

But then came the moment of the match which involved that man Messam again, this time intercepting West's pass on halfway before showing pace to get over. Cruden however left the door ajar for the Blues with a conversion miss leaving the score at 8-3 on 50 minutes.

Crucially for the Chiefs, Cruden was on-target with seventeen minutes left as he sent over a penalty from distance to leave the Blues two scores down. It was clear who were the champion team on show as the Chiefs had been savvy in defence while taking points.

However they would be made to sweat for their place in the play-offs when an eight, nine, wing move on the blindside saw Moala go over to set up a grandstand finish. West's tough kick hit the post so the hosts would need another try or two penalties to break Chiefs hearts.

But the Super Rugby holders held on and were deserving winners, with their streetwise style set to strike fear into their upcoming opponent next week. They cannot be written off.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Try: Moala
Pen: West

For Chiefs:
Try: Messam
Pen: Cruden 2

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Lolagi Visinia/George Moala, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Peter Saili, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Jackson Willison, 23 George Moala/Albert Nikoro.

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Nick Barrett, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Dwayne Sweeney.

Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, Brendan Pickerill
TMO: Ben Skeen

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