Planet Rugby

Blues end season on a high

15th May 2010 10:35

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Benson Stanley blues v chiefs

Blues finish with win

A brace of tries from Blues winger Rudi Wulf helped his team to a 30-20 Super 14 win over the Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

It wasn't a comfortable bonus-point victory for the home side, the Chiefs giving their North Island rivals a thorough workout and even threatened an upset on several occasions.

There was nothing riding on the result but there were potential All Black and New Zealand Maori spots on the line for the two teams in their last Super 14 match, ahead of the competition's expansion next season.

With All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore expected to miss at least the June Tests against Ireland and Wales with a shoulder dislocation, Chiefs rake Aled de Malmanche did his chances of selection no harm with a solid effort at the line-out and scrums against Blues counterpart Keven Mealamu, who is likely to step up as the starting hooker for New Zealand.

Brendon Leonard, another hunting for a return to the New Zealand squad, also had a busy night at scrum-half for the visitors. His defence early in the match, where he stopped Rene Ranger close to the line and held up Peter Saili over it, meant the teams remained scoreless for the opening 25 minutes.

Aside from Leonard's try-saving efforts, the Blues also butchered a four-on-one overlap and saw Stephen Brett miss a simple penalty before Paul Williams went over for the game's opening try.

It was a rare missed tackle by Leonard on Wulf that set up the five-pointer, with the left winger then fending off Chiefs full-back Tim Nanai-Williams before the ball was spun out wide to Williams to dot down in the right-hand corner.

Just after fly-half Trent Renata had kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit, the Chiefs found themselves down a man when Colin Bourke was sin-binned for what referee Paul Marks said was the deliberate and cynical playing of the ball on the ground.

It appeared to be a harsh decision as replays showed the ball seemed to pop out as the loose forward was making the tackle.

It was certainly a costly call for the visitors as the Blues made the most of the one-man advantage with centre Benson Stanley going over for their second try.

Another Renata penalty on the stroke of half-time, however, kept the Chiefs in the hunt at 12-6 down.

More great cover defence from Leonard, who was in the thick of the scrum of players holding Wulf up over the line, denied the Blues their third try with less than two minutes gone in the second half.

It eventually came a few minutes later after prop Tony Woodcock had been held up. From the resulting 5m scrum, number eight Viliami Ma'afu found Alby Mathewson on an angled run and the scrum-half dived over.

A Brett penalty stretched their lead to 14 points but the decision by Chiefs coach Ian Foster to turn to his bench reaped the reward with replacements Junior Pololeuligaga (on for Leonard), Kevin O'Neill (on for Calum Retallick) and Hika Elliot (on for de Malmanche) all involved in the build-up to Liam Messam's try, which Renata converted.

The Blues responded immediately as Wulf grabbed his brace to put the result beyond doubt before Save Tokula got a late consolation.

Ironically the Hurricanes were still in with a chance of making the play offs at the start of the final round but the Blues end the season higher than the Hurricanes due to their points differential.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Williams, Stanley, Mathewson, Wulf 2
Con: Brett
Pen: Brett

For Chiefs:
Tries: Messam, Tokula
Cons: Renata 2
Pen: Renata 2

Blues: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Tom Chamberlain, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 George Pisi.

Chiefs: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Save Tokula, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Jason Hona, 10 Trent Renata, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Tristan Moran, 18 Kevin O'Neill, 19 Luke Braid 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Siale Piutau, 22 Tim Mikkelson.

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