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Blues beat Chiefs but fall short of bonus point needed to claim top seed

By Ned Lester
Hoskins Sotutu scores the Blues try. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Blues hosted the Chiefs with a bonus point win needed to claim the top spot on the Super Rugby Pacific table in 2024.

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Numerous late changes or both teams changed the look of each backline for the contest, with three All BlacksRieko Ioane, Emoni Narawa and Shaun Stevenson – ending up on the sidelines.

With just 40 seconds remaining, Josh Ioane denied the Blues the top seed by scoring. It secured the Hurricanes’ bragging rights and meant the Brumbies were confirmed as third-placed finishers.

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The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

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The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

It was almost a dream start for the Chiefs who made a break down the middle with their first possession before finding Etene Nanai-Seturo on the wing who bumped off the final defender and scored. However, the try was disallowed after the TMO found the initial break was assisted by an illegal hold.

After that excitement, the Chiefs were penalised for another off-the-ball play and duly warned. The Blues then opened the scoring with a lineout drive try.

After repeated offside infringements, the Chiefs were handed a yellow card and the Blues were quick to punish them for it, going again to the lineout drive and scoring through Hoskins Sotutu.

The Blues had clearly identified an opportunity to attack the Chiefs’ defence with chip kicks and went to that option a number of times in the opening half, with Caleb Clarke and Mark Tele’a busy collecting punts from both Stephen Perofeta and Harry Plummer.

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Finally with some attacking field position, the Chiefs tried a driving maul of their own but were pulled apart by the Blues pack. Putting the ball through the hands with advantage, Damian McKenzie put a chip kick through but was held back by Hoskins Sotutu who was handed a yellow card for his blatant foul play.

It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to take advantage of their man advantage as Aidan Ross made up for his sin-binning by scoring, making it a five-point game.

That’s where things were left at halftime, with a scoreline of 12-7 favouring the Auckanders.

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The Blues weren’t satisfied with that margin and came out in the second period re-energised with an urgency to get to the line and who else but Mark Tele’a to make a wall of defence look insufficient and score.

The Chiefs created a chance to strike back when an offload found Cortez Ratima and Etene Nanai-Seturo ran a perfect line off the halfback before spilling the ball in the tackle of Cole Forbes.

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A draw and pass from Plummer after the ensuing scrum opened up space for AJ Lam to burst through, and the centre ran the ball to halfway before finding Caleb Clarke with a wrap-around whose pass was intercepted by another impressive defensive effort from Liam Coombes-Fabling.

The scrum dominance the Blues had established in the first half continued when the reserves took the field, and Hoskins Sotutu profited from another strong shove to crash over for his second of the game and 11th on the season.

The Blues were firmly on track for claiming that top seed when Akira Ioane powered over from close range, extending the lead to five tries to one.

Quinn Tupaea wasn’t interested in that scoreline though and made the most of AJ Lam slipping in the defensive line to get through to the line and close that deficit.

With that precious lead under threat, Mr. Clutch Sam Knock produced a big turnover and Hoskins Sotutu offered a chip-kick which Dalton Papali’i recovered.

Just as it looked the hosts had done enough, the Chiefs made a break down the sideline and were dragged down just meters short of the line. The ball went wide and with time nearly expired, Josh Ioane stepped his way into a gap and scored a try that secured the top spot for the Hurricanes. Fulltime score: 31-17.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

4 Comments
K
Kara 17 days ago

If you want to bugger up a game give it to O’Keefe.
Inconsistent advantage rulings for knock ons, an unfortunate propensity to use cards instead of player management. Ross may well have been offside but he had no influence on that phase of play. Its a pity O’Keefe is not Australian and then he would not be reffing the Wallabies - at least we are saved from Berry!

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