Chiefs beat Blues to secure finals berth
July 11, 2014
Blues centre M'a Nonu was shown a yellow card in the first half
© Getty Images
The Chiefs kept their Super Rugby title defence alive as they slithered to an 11-8 win on Friday over the Blues in Auckland.
Eighth on the table overall, and fourth in the congested New Zealand conference going into the match, the Chiefs held on in horrendous conditions for the crucial win to secure their spot in the play-offs.
Undefeated at Eden Park this season, the Blues kept the Chiefs under huge pressure early on, pounding their line with a punishing series of five-metre scrums in heavy rain and strong winds. They looked to have earned early reward when No.8 Jerome Kaino twisted over after five minutes, but a boot from scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow dislodged the ball and the Chiefs survived the onslaught.
Already missing prop Tony Woodcock and loose forward Luke Braid to injury, the Blues suffered further loss after 18 minutes when a calf injury sidelined stand-in skipper Keven Mealamu in his record-equalling 162nd Super Rugby match.
Liam Squire takes on the Blues defence in Auckland © Getty Images
The Chiefs conceded a swathe of early penalties as the Blues dominated the opening 20 minutes with 91 per cent territory and 70 per cent possession. But the visitors' defence held strong before they broke clear and found some field position for Aaron Cruden to sink a 23rd-minute penalty which gave them a 3-0 lead they carried into half-time.
The Blues' faint hopes of making the play-offs faded further when inside-centre Ma'a Nonu was sin-binned four minutes before the break for a no-arms tackle on Chiefs centre Tim Nanai-Williams. But they made half-time without conceding further points, and an Ihaia West penalty five minutes after the restart levelled the scores just before Nonu's return.
The Chiefs kept their chances of a Super Rugby three-peat alive (video in Australia only)
A Liam Messam game-breaking intercept try came just three minutes later. With the Blues hot on attack, the Chiefs' flanker swooped on West's inside pass to Tevita Li and ran 70 metres to score.
Cruden extended the margin with a 45m penalty on 65 minutes, but the sin-binning of outstanding Chiefs lock Mike Fitzgerald three minutes later gave the Blues a sniff.
They shunted the Chiefs' scrum back from five metres out, and Bryn Hill flicked the ball on for replacement winger George Moala to dive over in the corner. But West couldn't sink the difficult conversion, and the Chiefs controlled the closing 10 minutes to wrap up the win.