May 18, 2019

Blues too strong for Gallagher Chiefs

The Gallagher Chiefs unable to upset determined Blues at Eden Park in Auckland falling short with a 23-8 loss.

Looking for their third dramatic late comeback in a row, the Chiefs once again finished strong but were held scoreless in the second half by a determined Blues side who recorded their first win over their neighbours since 2011.

A ferocious first few minutes from the Blues saw them go close to getting the first points of the night, but some desperate Chiefs goal line defence saw them not only clear the danger, but counter attack 100 metres downfield.

Back-to-back five metre scrums saw two good chances for the Chiefs, but lock Jesse Parete was held up over the line and a wide pass from Marty McKenzie was called forward, and the score remained 0-0 after a frantic opening 10 minutes.

After another period of attack from the Blues, the Chiefs then struck against the run of play. Prop Angus Ta’avao made a break before a well weighted kick from wing Etene Nanai-Seturo put pressure on the Blues defence, and flanker Mitch Karpik was on hand to pounce on the loose ball and score.

Through the middle of the first half the Blues looked the more likely of the sides to score next, but simple errors at crucial times let them down.

Finally, they cracked the Chiefs defence as first five Harry Plummer slipped through a half gap and squeezed his way over the line in the left-hand corner, after initial good ball skills from three of the Blues forward pack.

Plummer pushed his conversion just wide, to keep the scores locked up after 33 minutes, but just a minute later the Chiefs were back in front thanks to a Marty McKenzie penalty.

With time nearly up in the first half, the Blues retook the lead as a composed build up ended in fullback Melani Nanai showing great strength and determination to get the ball down over the line in between three Chiefs defenders.

The high intensity of the match continued at the start of the second half, with neither side able to make inroads but plenty of entertaining rugby on display.

Eventually it was the Blues who stretched their lead with a penalty from Harry Plummer, opening up a five-point advantage with half an hour left to play.

A deserved third try then followed for the Blues with prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi scoring after another dominant spell of possession and territory, taking the lead out to 10 points as the match headed into the final quarter.

With the Blues seemingly in control, the Chiefs, as they have done often in recent weeks, finished the match strongly and were unlucky not to narrow the margin at the 70-minute mark, after loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula burrowed his way over the line but lost control.

Moments later a strong carry from Sam Cane, in his first game of the season, also got over the line but there was another knock on.

It was the Blues who then had the final say as replacement Gerard Cowley-Tuioti rumbled his way over from a lineout with the last play of the match to secure a four tries to one bonus point win.

Gallagher Chiefs 8 (Mitch Karpik try; Marty McKenzie pen) Blues 23 (Harry Plummer, Melani Nanai, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti tries; Harry Plummer pen) HT: 8-10.
The Gallagher Chiefs return to FMG Stadium Waikato for their next match, against the Reds this Friday night (24 May, kick off 7.35pm).

Blues too strong for Gallagher Chiefs