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'You don't want to know what I was thinking'

By Sam Smith
Dalton Papalii. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

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After last weekend’s last gasp defeat suffered at the hand of the Hurricanes, it looked like the Blues had once again let a victory slip out of their hands when Chiefs first five Bryn Gatland lined up a penalty in the final play of the match which could have won the visitors the game.

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Barely a minute earlier, the Blues held possession in the Chiefs’ half with time almost up on the clock and were protecting a 24-22 lead.

Back to back penalties, however, handed the Chiefs possession and then an opportunity to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. Fortunately for the Blues, Gatland’s attempt on goal sailed wide and the final whistle was blown to signal the end of the match.

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The Aotearoa Rugby Pod reflects on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s debut for the Blues.
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The Aotearoa Rugby Pod reflects on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s debut for the Blues.

While the game will go down as a victory for the home side, it was certainly far from convincing. While captain Dalton Papalii was just happy to escape with the victory, standing under the posts and watching from a distance as Gatland lined up the potentially match-deciding kick was certainly not how he had hoped to finish the game.

“To be honest, you don’t want to know what I was thinking in my head,” Papalii told Sky Sports after the match. “You don’t want to know.

 

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“I’m quite speechless at the moment. It was a credit to the Chiefs, they’re always physical against us in the Battle of the Bombays. We talked about winning the moments, winning those small moments and stacking them and throughout that game we made it tough for ourselves but it’s the cliché, ‘Credit to the boys’.”

While the Blues drew first blood in the match thanks to the boot of Harry Plummer, it was the visiting Chiefs who scored the first try – an outstanding individual effort from halfback Brad Weber in his 100th match for the team.

The lead swapped hands five times throughout the match in what was a relatively stop-start affair, with neither side being able to shake their dogged opposition throughout the game. While we’ve been treated to a number of high-scoring, free-flowing affairs between the Blues and Chiefs throughout history, Saturday’s match-up was more of an attritional Battle of the Bombays than it was a thrilling spectacle.

Papalii suggested it was the close geographic proximity of the two sides – with Papalii now representing Counties Manukau, a province in the Chiefs catchment area – that fosters the ferocity in the contact when the two teams line up every season.

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“I think it’s just because we’re just so close to each other… They talk about being brothers but it’s a love-hate relationship,” Papalii said. “We love playing them because it’s always test footy against them but we hate it because they’re a good team and we want to win the comp. The Chiefs boys are bloody physical so credit to them.”

The Chiefs will have a chance for redemption later in the season when the neighbouring franchises square off for a second time in early April.

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