The Blues stumbled to their third straight loss and their hold on 1st place in the New Zealand conference is now just a slim two points ahead of the Crusaders, whom they will meet in the next round.
The Highlanders saw their play-off chances crash with yet another loss, but the Hurricanes hit some form as they beat the Lions.
THE RACE FOR FIRST-FIVE - WHAT HAPPENED
- Not a good night with the boot for Luke McAlister or Stephen Donald as they went head to head on Saturday night. Donald missed his first two kicks from almost in front of the posts, but went on to land four out his next five kicks at goal for a 57 percent success rate on the night. McAlister had a nightmare, landing his first two kicks but missing the next five for a lowly 27 percent success rate.
- McAlister made 10 tackles but missed five, made one linebreak and one offload, and had just the one handling error in the game.
- Donald made just two tackles and completed them both, made two linebreaks and one offload, and made two handling errors. However, that doesn't include two forward passes he made that weren't picked up by the officials on the night.
- Aaron Cruden, on the other hand, had an excellent night with the boot kicking all four penalties and three from four conversions for a success rate of 88 percent. He also made one linebreak that resulted in his try, and one offload in the tackle. With just two handling errors and three missed tackles from his twelve tackle attempts, Cruden was the best of the first five-eighths under our scrutiny this weekend.
BLUES v CHIEFS (11-16)
- Lineouts were hotly contested in this game. Craig Clarke stole the first lineout of the game off Ali Williams, but Williams got his revenge later in the game taking two steals off the Chiefs' throw. Overall the Blues won seven of their 10 throws, with a not straight and overthrow being their other two lost throws. The Chiefs won seven of their nine throws.
- Top jumper in the game was Williams, winning six of his seven throws. He also made five ball carries during the game.
- The Blues backline still made seven linebreaks in this game, with their top linebreaker being Joe Rokocoko with two. Stephen Brett made one linebreak when he came on for the last twelve minutes of the game.
- The Chiefs made 11 linebreaks in the game, the most telling coming from the veteran Tana Umaga whose linebreak led to the Chiefs' sole try. Top linebreakers for them were Mils Muliaina and Sitiveni Sivivatu who both made three. Sivivatu was the top player for metres gained, with a total of 201.
- The Blues conceded eight penalties, five coming at the breakdown. They also conceded two scrum penalties in this game, more than twice their usual game average for this set piece.
- The Chiefs conceded nine penalties, six coming at the breakdown. They too conceded two scrum penalties, which has been about the norm for them this season.
HURRICANES v LIONS (38-27)
- As predicted, a high scoring game with both sides choosing to move the ball through the hands. The Lions missed 14 percent of their tackles, while the Hurricanes missed 10 percent of theirs.
- The Hurricanes only had 40 percent of the possession and territory in this game, but still managed to score four tries.
- Their lineout ran at 90 percent, with Jeremy Thrush the top jumper winning four throws.
- Again the Hurricanes' discipline was good, conceding just six penalties and only one at the breakdown.
- Aaron Cruden scored 23 points, with a haul of four penalties, three conversions and one try.
HIGHLANDERS v FORCE (14-21)
- Despite being up 14-3 at halftime this was yet another game the Highlanders managed to lose in the last quarter, reminiscent of their past few seasons.
- The Highlanders' set piece still ran well, winning 80 percent of their lineouts. Top jumper was Jarred Hoeata winning three from his four throws.
- Plenty of linebreaks by the Highlanders, with Siale Piutau making three in their overall tally of seven, but with a team total of 12 handling errors the finishing wasn't there.
- With only 40 percent of the possession and territory, missing thirty tackles is always going to cost you.
- Conceding nine penalties doesn't help either, and six of those came at the breakdown.'
- Adam Thomson played his 50th game for the Highlanders.
Further NZ player stats can be found at Haka.co.nz
- HERALD ONLINE