The Chiefs sent out the reinforcements to give their big boys a break before their Super Rugby Aotearoa final next week against the Crusaders and they did their franchise proud, going down to the Blues 39-19 at Eden Park after a huge fight.
It wasn’t until the subs came on where the superiority told and the Blues posted 20 points in the last 20 minutes.
Here are how the brave Chiefs rated.
1. Ollie Norris – 7.5/10
The best prop on show, overshadowing his storied opponents. The Chiefs scrum looked really good. Made seven carries, three of them in a minute before he ‘scored’ the Chiefs’ second which was disallowed try in the 34th minute. Off at 60.
2. Bradley Slater – 6
Sometimes it’s hard to be a hooker, you’re buried away toiling hard and you’re only noticed when there’s a not straight or tighthead against you. That happened to the Taranaki rake at 37 minutes where he threw a crooked one 20 metres out. Pretty good other than that. Off at 54.
3. Sione Mafileo – 7
The ex-Blue looked like he had a point to prove and he did. Scrum was firm, got right behind Zane Kapeli at 30 minutes to drive him 15 metres to the line, then a minute later took a quick lineout throw to build an attack. Off at 54.
4. Samipeni Finau – N/A
Off at 25 after trying to fall on a loose ball and twisting like a corkscrew.
5. Josh Lord – 7
Annoyed the Blues lineout, who twice knocked on in the first half, and got a great steal in the air at 48. Tackled well and is really strong, belying his beanpole physique.
6. Viliami Taulani – 6
He wasn’t fazed making his debut, heroic tackle in the 8th minute to deny a Blues try. Lovely pop ball in a tight space at 39, Stinger at 51 and off.
7. Zane Kapeli – 6.5
Started the match inauspiciously with two penalties conceded; not rolling away in the 6th minute, and a tackle penalty 13th minute. As the nerves wore off he got one of his meat missile tackles off in the 15th minute on poor Otere Black, who will be blue as well as black tomorrow. Then there was another missile mission, this time with ball in hand at 29 minutes as he drove within centimetres of the line. Went into lock in the second half so didn’t feature as much in the loose.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 30, 2021
8. Pita Gus Sowakula – 8.5
Clayton McMillan said there were seven spots up for grabs for next week and the first man who will be picked in that pack is Sowakula. Mitch Brown will probably be pretty nervous if Jacobson is fit as it will be hard to leave Sowakula out of the starting team. Awesome ‘don’t argue’ on Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and made an attacking run in broken play in the 11th minute that got them close to the line. Some influential play at 46 minutes with a snatch of a high ball and then a lineout win to build pressure and that led to the penalty that closed the gap to 14-12. Just didn’t stop when others, even some off the bench, were flagging.
9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi – 6
Very settled display early on, some good passes and some good reflexes to recover some loose ball. Off at 47.
10. Bryn Gatland – 6
Like Sowakula, he took the responsibility to be a senior player seriously and looked committed with ball in hand and in defence. Good off the tee, took up the discussion with the ref following a disallowed try in the 35th minute. Bit of a brain explosion when he quickly punted the penalty downfield at 52 minutes which led to the Sullivan try, which lost him a point.
11. Bailyn Sullivan – 6.5
Top metres for his team, a lightning bolt of a run in the 20th minute and just denied a try with a double movement. Sounds like little brother Zarn has the bragging rights this time around.
12. Rameka Poihipi – 6
A lot to like in the first 60 minutes, very busy on defence in the first half and a strong run at 45 but just went quiet in the final quarter.
13. Sean Wainui – 6
Got the seatbelt tackle from Rieko Ioane early on but he’s tough. Cool turnover at 44 minutes when they tried something different off a penalty. Hobbled off at 56.
14. Shaun Stevenson – 6.5
Interesting, when his team fell away in the final quarter was when the mercurial wing came alive. At 60, got a long ball back with no support but a minute later he went over in the opposite corner to tie it up 19-all. As the Blues built the pressure in the final 10 minutes he stepped up the tackling, with telling hits in the 72nd, on Caleb Clarke at 76 and Soane Vikena at 77 minutes.
15. Kaleb Trask – 6
Was good positionally and won the battle for territory in the second quarter where the Blues seemed to want to pepper him and Gatland at the back. I think he’s quicker than he looks, as he slips through some narrow gaps at times, where defences seem to misjudge his speed. Looked slightly uncomfortable after a knock just after halftime and there were a couple of dropped high balls in the second half.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 30, 2021
16. Nathan Harris – 5
On at 54. Wasn’t the major reason why the effort fell away – but as a senior figure, needed to lift his teammates.
17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth – 4
On at 60, got stuck at 64 at the back of the ruck that got the Blues ahead again. Couldn’t cope with Ofa at scrum time but also had Kapeli behind him at lock which wasn’t ideal.
18. Joe Apikotoa – 4
On at 54. Scrum was not good.
19. Liam Messam – 6.5
On at 51 minutes to a big cheer. He’s a rangatira no doubt.
20. Tom Florence – 7
On at 25. Heroic tackles on Tom Robinson, then Clarke within a gasp around the 50 minute mark. Top tackler for his team even though he was on the field for 55 minutes. Also carried seven times for 22 metres. Will get a place on the bench if Jacobson isn’t fit.
21. Xavier Roe – 5.5
On at 47. He’s got a lot of skill and will be a fixture in the franchise for years to come.
22. Rivez Reihana – N/A
On very late.
23. Gideon Wrampling – 6
On at 56. Wonderful skill setting up Stevenson for his try.
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