All Black lock hailed for ‘inspirational’ shift after remarkable recovery to clinch Super Rugby Pacific title

David Skippers
Patrcik Tuipulotu Blues v Chiefs SRP final 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Blues and All Blacks second-row Patrick Tuipulotu.

Blues captain and second-row Patrick Tuipulotu couldn’t hide his delight after his team clinched a 41-10 victory over the Chiefs in the Super Rugby Pacific final in Auckland.

The home side were full value for their win as they dominated for long periods at Eden Park with Caleb Clarke leading the way with a hat-trick of tries.

Saturday’s success means it is the first time the Blues have been crowned champions of a full Super Rugby competition since 2003.

‘Miraculous recovery’

Tuipulotu was initially ruled out of the rest of the Blues‘ campaign due to a knee injury sustained in their quarter-final win over the Fijian Drua but made a miraculous recovery and led his team out in the final.

And the 31-year-old proved his fitness with an outstanding 58-minute stint which resulted in him being rewarded with the official man-of-the-match award.

“It’s a surreal feeling with the boys on the bench for the final two minutes – I can’t describe the feeling – there’s a lot of joy,” said Tuipulotu after the final.

“It’s been a long time and (I’m) really proud of the effort our team has put in to get this win.

“It’s important to this team – a lot of them are young and we wanted to add to the legacy of Blues Rugby. I think we can proud that we’ve done that.”

Blues blindside flanker Akira Ioane, who scored the first try in his last game for the Blues before heading off to Japan, hailed Tuipulotu’s effort in his comeback match.

Caleb Clarke hat-trick powers Blues to their first Super Rugby title in 21 years

“Patty was out two weeks ago with a broken knee or whatever, MCL,” Ioane told Stan Sport.

“And now he’s man of the match in the final. So it just speaks volumes of how much the boys want to play for each other. Pretty inspirational when your skip is down and out and now he’s out here playing.”

His back-row partner, openside flanker Dalton Papali’i, mentioned the trials and tribulations the men from Auckland endured since he joined the team several years ago.

“I remember when I first came into the team and we were down the bottom and fighting for the top eight and it was tough, but to stick in and becoming a champ – no words,” he said.

“I’ve seen some pretty good performances but that was the most complete. We stuck in there the whole game and every moment we lost, we made sure to follow up and win another moment.”

Back-to-back final losses for the Chiefs

Meanwhile, it was another bad day at the office for the Chiefs who have now suffered back-to-back Super Rugby Pacific final defeats after coming off second best to the Crusaders last year in Hamilton.

“A very tough one out here tonight… (The Blues) came out and set it right from the get-go tonight and made it tough for us to stay in the game,” Chiefs captain Luke Jacobson said.

“Really unfortunate we couldn’t get it done tonight… (but) we’ve got a really tight culture and we’ll be back again.”

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