Chiefs survive Blues scare in high-scoring match

By Kris Shannon

Blues 34
Chiefs 41

Flying Fijian winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma scored four tries to help the Chiefs survive a real scare against the Blues at North Harbour Stadium tonight, with the competition leaders edging the entertaining encounter 41-34.

The win meant the Chiefs will take their Super 15 lead into the international break, but it wasn't as easy as many would have expected against the lowly Blues.

The Blues came into the contest with as many wins (two) as the Chiefs had losses, leaving most picking a comfortable win for the table-toppers.

But the Blues made their neighbours work hard for their win, and even threatened to pinch a draw at the death. The Chiefs held on for yet another victory, thanks in large to Tikoirotuma.

His four tries equalled the Super Rugby record and emulated compatriot Sitiveni Sivivatu's effort against the same opposition in 2009. Tikoirotuma single-handedly cancelled out the Blues' try-scoring efforts, with their points total - the highest they have managed this season - all coming in vain.

It looked good early for the Blues, as they did something they haven't managed very often this season - score the first try. After several phases of play, Francis Saili fended off Aaron Cruden before darting through a couple of would-be tacklers to give his side an early advantage.

But the Chiefs hit back almost immediately through Tikoirotuma, with the flying Fijian winger easily winning the race to get on the end of Cruden's clever grubber kick. And the table-toppers scored a second half an hour into the opening stanza, as Sonny Bill Williams somehow foiled four defenders to cross from close range.

The teams then traded yellow cards, with Blues flanker Steven Luatua and Chiefs winger Maritino Nemani sin-binned for spear tackles within a minute of each other.

The hosts were more than holding their own against their high-flying neighbours, and they were rewarded for their first half efforts when Lachie Munro finished a flowing move in the corner before nailing the sideline conversion to level the scores at 20 going into the break.

It capped a half in which the Blues looked a different side to the first three months of the competition. They largely ceded territory to the visitors, but were clinical when they had the ball and came away with points from many of their forays in attack.

But, if the Blues were sniffing an upset, their more illustrious opponents attempted to quash their hopes early in the second half through two Tikoirotuma tries.

First, some sharp attacking play from Cruden and Williams in the Blues' 22 created acres of space for Liam Messam to slip Tikoirotuma through for his double. Then, the Chiefs demonstrated why they are leading the competition, as they spectacularly broke from deep inside their own half before Tikoirotuma raced away to complete his hat-trick.

The Chiefs may have expected the Blues to wilt from that point, but they instead encountered the opposite. Spurred on by an edge in numbers created when Michael Fitzgerald was sin-binned for punching, the Blues hit back with two tries in five minutes from Rudi Wulf and Rene Ranger, levelling the scores at 34 with 15 minutes to play.

But that man Tikoirotuma proved the match-winner, racing past Wulf to dot down another perfectly-weighted Cruden kick and break the Blues' hearts.

Blues 34 (Saili, Munro, Wulf, Ranger tries; Munro 2 pens, 4 cons)
Chiefs 41(Tikoirotuma 4, Williams tries; Cruden 2 pens, 5 cons)
HT: 20-20


- Hamilton News

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