Blues, Chiefs slip and slide in stalemate

The rain equalised the Blues and Chiefs  at Eden Park on Friday as their New Zealand Super Rugby derby ended in a 16-16 draw.

Rieko Ioane scored the Blues’ only try while the Chiefs tries came from Damian McKenzie and Johnny Faauli.

The second-placed Chiefs are now nine points behind the unbeaten Crusaders, who face the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday.

The rain in Auckland led to several errors from both sides in the first period but it was the Blues who had their noses in front by 13 to 8 at the break.

This after the Chiefs took a 3-0 lead on the six-minute mark when McKenzie slotted a penalty for a Blues breakdown infringement. Blues flyhalf Piers Francis levelled the scores six minutes later when referee Nick Briant penalised Chiefs flanker Sam Cane for failing to release the ball-carrier after the tackle.

It took until the 15th minute for the first serious attacking opportunity to come, but a good break from Tawera Kerr-Barlow off the base of a Chiefs scrum was not finished off by James Lowe, whose kick ahead rolled over the dead ball area.

The Blues missed a chance to take the lead at the end of the first quarter when a Francis kick was off target, but soon after Ioane ran an incisive line off Augustine Pulu from a ruck near the tryline to bust the deadlock. With Francis’ conversion it was 10-3.

Francis made it 13-3 just before the break following an offence from Cane but for the second time the Blues were sloppy at the restart and the Chiefs made them pay. This time it was McKenzie who went through a gap before showing pace to the corner for an unconverted try.

Coming out for the second period the rain continued to fall and errors followed suit as both sides struggled to handle the slippery ball.

Francis though was unfazed off the tee and when Nepo Laulala played Pulu at the base he stepped up to move his side 16-8 in front.

Cruden did cancel that out 11 minutes later following a scrum penalty and Blues boss Tana Umaga promptly made changes up front.

Substitutions were prominent just after the hour mark as the Blues in particular looked for fresh legs to avoid any effects of their long flight back from South Africa. It didn’t appear to improve their issues at the scrum though as the strong Chiefs continued to dominate in that area.

It was from broken field though that the Chiefs hauled themselves back level at 16-16 as a breakout from James Lowe led to McKenzie’s flat wide kick finding Faauli for a run-in on the right wing. Cruden couldn’t add the touchline extras so there was 11 minutes to find a winner.

Francis had that chance off the tee on 73 minutes but was wide of the posts and despite a frantic finish in heavy rain, neither side could press in the opposition red zone sufficiently to pick up the four points as they were forced to settle for a draw that suits neither outfit.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Try: R Ioane
Con: Francis
Pens: Francis 3

For Chiefs:
Tries: McKenzie, Faauli
Pens: McKenzie, Cruden

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 TJ Faiane

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Solomon Alaimalo, 23 Shaun Stevenson

Referee: Nick Briant

- All Out Rugby Staff Writer