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Chiefs topple Blues and Highlanders in game of three halves clash

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Chiefs have finished their pre-season campaign undefeated after beating the Blues and Highlanders in a game of three halves match in Queenstown on Saturday.

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The victories over their Kiwi rivals come after the Chiefs thumped Moana Pasifika 61-7 at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland last week.

As such, the Hamilton-based franchise stands as the only New Zealand team yet to taste defeat heading into their Super Rugby Pacific season-opener against the Highlanders in Queenstown next Saturday.

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Clayton McMillan’s side earned their unbeaten status by attaining a 14-5 win over the Highlanders and a 17-7 victory over the Blues across two 40-minute periods at Wakatipu Rugby Club, two results that bode well for their chances on the eve of the new campaign.

The first of those two wins came against the Highlanders, who welcomed back their three All Blacks – captain Aaron Smith, Shannon Frizell and Ethan de Groot – since last year’s tour of the United States and Europe.

The presence of their internationals couldn’t stop the Highlanders from holding off the Chiefs, though, as tries to first-five Bryn Gatland and No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula cancelled out the injury-time try scored by second-five Scott Gregory.

The Chiefs carried that momentum into the second 40-minute period, where they came up against a star-studded Blues outfit headlined new cross-code recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and All Blacks wing Caleb Clarke.

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While Clarke showed some fine touches out on the left edge, the Chiefs looked in fine form as the likes of Jonah Lowe and Josh Ioane continued to impress following their standout showing against Moana Pasifkka eight days ago.

Even in spite of a late yellow card to All Blacks captain Sam Cane, the Chiefs surged home as Lowe bagged a brace of tries while hooker Tyrone Thompson crashed over from close range to negate Tanielu Tele’a’s try for the Blues.

Both the Blues and Highlanders had the chance to redeem themselves when they squared off against one another in the final 40-minute period of the encounter, which proved to be the most competitive of the afternoon.

With overhauled run-on teams, it was the Highlanders who ran out to an early 14-0 lead through tries to No 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u and wing Vereniki Tikoisolomone within the first 10 minutes.

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The Blues, however, levelled the scoreline not long afterwards as the playmaking prowess of Stephen Perofeta laid the foundations for Vaiolini Ekuasi’s try before Josh Goodhue scored one of his own four minutes later.

Some quick thinking by halfback Folau Fakatava edged the Highlanders back into the lead with eight minutes to play, but the Blues threatened to equalise at the death when Taine Plumtree dotted down in the right-hand corner.

Perofeta couldn’t add the extras from out wide, though, which was enough for the Highlanders to walk away with at least one victory in hand from the day’s play.

Chiefs 14 (Tries to Emoni Narawa, Pita Gus Sowakula; 2 conversions to Bryn Gatland)
Highlanders 5 (Try to Scott Gregory)

Chiefs 17 (Tries to Jonah Lowe (2), Tyrone Thompson; conversion to Josh Ioane)
Blues 7 (Try to Tanielu Tele’a; conversion to Harry Plummer)

Highlanders 21 (Tries to Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Vereniki Tikoisolomone, Folau Fakatava; 3 conversions to Marty Banks)
Blues 19 (Tries to Vaiolini Ekuasi, Josh Goodhue, Taine Plumtree; 2 conversion to Stephen Perofeta)

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