May 01, 2021

Gallagher Chiefs unable to hold off determined Blues

Overcoming a frustrating night dominated by whistle, the Blues claimed a bonus point 39-19 Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa win over the Gallagher Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday.

It was a game that had nothing riding on it, the Gallagher Chiefs already in next week's final, and the Blues assured of third place.

The Gallagher Chiefs were frustrated in making five first half sorties into the Blues red zone, only to be denied on each occasion. Their halftime reward was only three Bryn Gatland penalty goals.

Solid Blues' defence was augmented by Gallagher Chiefs mistakes, No8 Pita Gus Sowakula dropping the ball on one occasion and flanker Viliami Taulani on another. Wing Bailyn Sullivan looked to have scored but one of an interminable number of TMO checks that dominated the half showed he had made a double movement.

Then, prop Ollie Norris scored only for Blues captain Tom Robinson to make a captain's referral for a knock-on earlier in the move. That was over-ruled but it was found a Gallagher Chiefs player had then picked up the ball in an offside position.

Moments before the end of the half they had a fifth chance but had to take a penalty goal chance after the Blues defence denied them again.

The Blues, frustrated by the lack of flow in the game, directly attributable to the constant stoppages to check game incidents, made the most of their chances. Twice they scored after penalties allowed them to set up lineouts in the Gallagher Chiefs 22m zone.

From the first, 17 minutes into the game, a post lineout ruck saw halfback Finlay Christie slip a short pass to hooker Kurt Eklund who ran into a hole and under the goalposts to score.

Then eight minutes later it was flanker Adrian Choat who capitalised after a Blues lineout move created a chance at pace and when the ball swung clear from a ruck Choat went low to get across the line.

The Blues looked to take a deliberate approach in the wake of penalty goals landed by Gatland – taking their time to set their plan. Initially, it worked after Robinson and Sotutu carried the ball with power to give momentum which resulted in ball being cleared for fullback Zarn Sullivan to build his speed and race in for a 61st minute try.

The Gallagher Chiefs proved equally capable of lifting their tempo on the back of strong runs from Sowakula and replacement Tom Florence. They were instrumental with ball in hand to create a chance in the 65th minute which Stevenson took to score out wide. Gatland added the sideline conversion to level the score 19-19.

Putting the issue beyond doubt, the Blues scrum took control in the latter stages and in the 73rd minute it was strong enough to allow Sotutu to power over for the try. Replacement Gallagher Chiefs captain Liam Messam looked for a referral for obstruction but it was over-ruled.

Scorers: Blues 39 (Kurt Eklund, Adrian Choat, Zarn Sullivan, Hoskins Sotutu, AJ Lam 2 tries; Otere Black 3 con, pen) Gallagher Chiefs 19 (Shaun Stevenson tries; Bryn Gatland con, 4 pen ). HT: 14-9

Gallagher Chiefs unable to hold off determined Blues