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Blues outmuscle Chiefs to be crowned 2024 Super Rugby Pacific champions

By Ned Lester
Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane of the Blues celebrate the try. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The time had come, Super Rugby Pacific’s 2024 season had been relentless and unforgiving, ushering in a new era with the fall of a dynasty. The final provided an appropriately challenging stage; a packed, rainy Eden Park.

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The Blues stuck to their tried and true methods and it was ultimately one-way traffic for much of the contest. Pressure built and built and the Chiefs couldn’t help but leak points. A final score of 41-10 was a fair result for a dominant win.

A poor clearance to start the game from Harry Plummer made way for a promising opening attack from the Chiefs, with Wallace Sititi busting through the line and making some extra meters. The play only lasted a phase more though as Shaun Stevenson’s long pass drifted over the sideline.

Plummer’s second exit was strong, an effort backed up by his forward who competed and stole the lineout ball. Another clearance saw the Chiefs launch a counter-attack, but when Anton Lienert-Brown was dragged down on halfway, a breakdown infringement went the way of the Chiefs.

Damian McKenzie stepped up to the tee, but the distance on the angle proved too far.

A Caleb Clarke break down the left wing got the crowd roaring once more soon after, and following a scrum the Blues got to work with their short carries. In his final game for the Blues, it was Akira Ionae who got on the scoresheet first with an audacious play to slide the ball onto the line under the defence. Harry Plummer added the extras.

A Patrick Tuipulotu break off the kick-off ignited another Blues push upfield, with another Chiefs penalty surrendering more territory. The referee punished another indiscretion soon after and Plummer stepped up to make the lead 10.

Next, it was the Blues who were pulled up for getting caught on the wrong side of the ruck, and McKenzie nailed a penalty from a much more friendly position.

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Defence

82
Tackles Made
215
17
Tackles Missed
32
83%
Tackle Completion %
87%

That positive momentum was quickly snapped when Emoni Narawa left the kickoff to bounce over the sideline, thinking it would go out on the full. A misthrown lineout returned possession to the Blues inside the 22.

It wasn’t tidy, but a break blindside by Rieko Ioane saw the centre go close before being pushed to the touchline, then offload it to his brother Akira, who, falling over the sidelines himself, delivered a second offload to Caleb Clarke who finished the effort. Plummer again was up to the challenge off the tee.

With the rain easing, the Chiefs pressed deep into the Blues’ 22, but the home team’s defence resisted and won the turnover in the end. Again, Chiefs errors compounded and Shaun Stevenson was unable to take the clearance kick cleanly.

A Luke Jacobson breakdown steal eased the pressure momentarily, then after another exhaustive multi-phase wrestle, a Blues knock-on saw play exit the 22 briefly before returning. Two more Blues handling errors followed as the Chiefs struggled to exit their half.

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With yet another chance to push move play into the other half, Etene Nanai-Seturo kicked it out on the full. This time, a Chiefs penalty saw the team warned and Plummer added another three points.

A defensive stand and breakdown turnover from the home team saw the half come to an end. Score 20-3.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
2.9
14
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2
5
Entries

Play remained around the halfway point in the opening minutes of the second period, and while a kicking duel was won by the Chiefs thanks to a charge-down from Tyrone Thompson, another breakdown indiscretion allowed the Blues to launch a lineout drive from just outside the Chiefs 22.

Another lineout drive threatened to make the lead 22 just shy of the 50th minute, and while the Chiefs line held and held again, another penalty saw Ruben O’Neil sin-binned.

Caleb Clarke ran a hard line straight off the ensuing scrum and the ball from Hoskins Sotutu saw him find the tryline. Plummer’s excellent night off the tee continued as the No. 10 made it 27-3.

Stoic Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu got a standing ovation when departing the field, thankfully for All Blacks coaches – and fans – uninjured.

Attack

158
Passes
133
153
Ball Carries
78
418m
Post Contact Metres
198m
5
Line Breaks
4

No. 12 AJ Lam then managed to get his running game going in the Blues midfield, helping the game stay deep in Chiefs territory.

Caleb Clarke made it a hat-trick when put away in the corner thanks to a wide ball from Finlay Christie. It would be the halfback’s last contribution of the game. Plummer extended his perfect streak off the tee.

A well-worked reverse play from Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown then found a gap on the inside by the ruck, and the centre made it all but five meters to the line before finding Simon Parker who scored. Just shy of the 70-minute mark, Damian McKenzie added the extras to make it 34-10.

Still, thriving with ball in hand, the Blues stuck to their guns and rumbled upfield with short carries once more, with AJ Lam this time there to finish the drive. And yes, you guessed it, Plummer landed the conversion.

Akira Ioane, in his final Blues game, left the field with two minutes remaining, drawing an almighty applause from the crowd. A Blues icon, he walked off the Eden Park field a champion. Fulltime score 41-10.

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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