The team remained largely unchanged with Naitoa Ah Kuoi coming off the bench to pair up with Tupou Va’ai in the locking engine room of the scrum, while veteran All Blacks fly half Aaron Cruden moved back into the starting line up to guide his side around FMG Stadium Waikato.
With a persistent drizzle from the heavens and referee Ben O’Keefe providing a literal interpretation of the laws the match struggled to find its rhythm in the first half with the Blues being heavily penalised. The Chiefs failed to cherish possession and their option taking was questionable in the conditions.
The ‘New Blues’ came out in the second half and ground down the inexperienced and mentally vacant Chiefs to secure their first win in the Waikato since 2011.
So, who were the Chiefs’ best in the traditional North Island grudge match:
15. Damian McKenzie – 5.5/10
Kicked the points he should have and looked dangerous at times but guilty of kicking poorly in general play. Plenty of effort but decision making and execution let him down too often.
14. Shaun Stevenson – 5/10
Didn’t see much ball. Silly penalty to start second half. A forgettable performance in his 50th.
13. Quinn Tupaea – 6.5/10
Solid over the ball and pilfered deep in the Blues’ half early in the match. Has the makings to be a special player but can drop off a tackle.
12. Anton Lienert-Brown – 7.5/10
Found his way into the game without fuss. Consummate professional didn’t let his side down. Was staunch in defence and in possession.
11. Sean Wainui – 7/10
Wonderful running game and attacked the high ball well and chased his kicks, yet guilty of poor passing at times putting his side under pressure. Despite that one of the better players for the Chiefs.
10. Aaron Cruden – 7.5/10
Under played himself in attack early on and looked better when he took on the line later in the match. Kicked fairly well and made a number of crucial tackles and didn’t shirk to dirty work. A committed professional performance from the veteran.
9. Brad Weber (captain) – 4.5/10
A really questionable performance. His option taking and execution was substandard despite his efforts. Somewhat absent as a leader on the night hooked at the 64th minute.
8. Pita Gus Sowakula – 6/10
Carried well and defended well. The big man was industrious throughout with fellow backrowers but lacked the extra punch through the midfield that was required.
7. Lachlan Boshier – 7/10
A comprehensive performance and frustrated the Blues over the ball as expected. Failed to link with his backs when attacking opportunity presented but best Chiefs forward on the park.
6. Luke Jacobson – 6.5/10
Worked exceptionally hard in tight yet later in the match he was guilty of infringing around the breakdown that cost his side momentum and points.
5. Naitoa Ah Kuoi – 6/10
A mixed bag. Talent and inexperience both on display but liked his attitude. Had a crack and was in just about everything. Has the makings of a very good tight forward.
4. Tupou Va’ai – 6/10
Similar to his locking partner. Worked hard but for every positive impact there was a negative. Did not look out of place at this level but still so raw.
3. Nepo Laulala – 7/10
Very solid performance by the All Black. Hands let him down at times but he worked tirelessly at set piece and in the tight. Chiefs scrum solid when Nepo was at the cornerstone.
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 6.5/10
Lineout needs some work but had some strong carries and was committed to the cause. Much to like about his performance but requires focus and discipline if he is to take his game to the next level.
1. Aidan Ross – 6.5/10
Had some quality moments in tight in both attack and defence. Scrummaged well against a quality opponent.
16. Bradley Slater – 6/10
Provided some impact and his lineout work on a slippery night was okay.
17. Reuben O’Neill – 6.5/10
Has some game about him. Carried well and made a good tackle in cover defence.
18. Ross Geldenhuys – 6/10
The veteran threw himself into it in his cameo yet the Chiefs scrum struggled with him, Slater and O’Neill on the park.
19. Adam Thomson – 5/10
If he was there to help bring the Chiefs with experience in the later stages of the match Thompson didn’t offer that tonight. Still has the quality to do that job but will need to bring it next time around.
20. Dylan Nel – 6/10
Didn’t see much of him but that is not a criticism. Did work hard to lift the tempo and crashed fearlessly into the Blues in attack.
21. Lisati Milo-Harris – 6/10
Toiled away and showed he can play at this level but needed to really martial his troops more.
22. Kaleb Trask – N/A
23. Solomon Alaimal0 – 5.5/10
Worked away but didn’t impose himself on the match.
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