A brilliant individual effort from fullback Damian McKenzie has kept the Chiefs within touching distance of the Blues, in their round five Super Rugby Aotearoa match.

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In a game that started with plenty of end-to-end rugby, but with no points scored, the defensive effort was arguably the highlight of the first half.

The Chiefs had the better chances throughout the first half, but all were from long range. The hosts were making the most of their skilled backline, by breaking some tackles of Blues players and making some metres.

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Tony Brown interview after the Highlanders loss to the Hurricanes.

But it was the Blues who went on to break the deadlock in the 25th minute through blindside flanker Akira Ioane. The Blues had looked settled in the Chiefs 22m in the minutes before the try, and made the most of a costly error at the set-piece.

An overthrow at the lineout saw Blues scrumhalf, Finlay Christie, take possession, with the try-scoring play coming a few phases after.

With the Blues up 7-0, that brings me to McKenzie’s try-saving tackle.

The Blues were looking threatening with the ball in hand, as they mounted an attack from around mid-field. In the one phase, winger Mark Telea ran close to 40-metres but was stopped just short of the line.

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McKenzie seemed to line up the winger quite well, and made a solid tackle that not only put Telea into touch, but the winger also dropped the ball in contact. Also, if you watch the play back above, you’ll see the amount of work he put in to even get into the position to make the tackle.

Outstanding work rate from McKenzie, but he wasn’t the only one.

Special mention to prop Angus Ta’avao, who was another covering defender who cut off Telea’s angle, and arguably made it possible for McKenzie to make the crucial tackle.

While it’d be far too early to say that it saved the game for the Chiefs, but in kept them within a score 10-minutes out from half-time.

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The Chiefs came close to scoring inside the last minute of the half, with McKenzie putting a crossfield kick across to Mitchell Brown. But the flanker couldn’t quite offload the ball in time, as Caleb Clarke came across in defence.

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